Fire chiefs are urging residents to take care when using wheat bag “hot water bottles” after being called to an increasing number of incidents over recent years.
The warning comes following an incident that occurred in Brough late March, which extensively damaged a kitchen.
A Humberside Fire and Rescue spokesman, Pete Baron, said “most wheat bag fires start in the microwave due to the bag being heated for too long, often devastating the kitchen and sometimes affecting the whole house”.
Wheat bag “hot water bottles” are cushions and soft toys that are filled with wheat. They are designed for comfort and therapy by heating up the wheat in the microwave.
It may be difficult for people to believe that a product designed to offer comfort and therapy could pose a danger. However, the importance of following the manufacturer’s instructions cannot be stressed enough. If wheat bags are not used properly it can have devastating effects.
Ensuring that your product conforms to British Standards is essential. It is equally important not to allow anyone who is not aware, or is unable to understand the instructions, to heat them up.
The instructions should be on the bag itself and any outer covering that it may have. If you are not able to follow the instructions, it must not be used.
Fire and Rescue Services are urging residents to take care when using wheat bags, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and never overheat them.
It is also very important to know that your microwave turntable is working correctly and that oddly shaped items, such as teddy bears, are able to rotate fully in the microwave.
If the wheat bag is not turning properly it can create hot spots caused by uneven heating of the bag.
If the wheat bag is then insulated, for example if it is put under bedding, spontaneous heating can continue, leading to the wheat bag catching fire, which is vividly illustrated in this video.
Homemade wheat bags pose a different type of danger as the exact weight is not known so it is difficult to know how long to heat the product for.
Adding scented oils to wheat bags means that over time the cloth and the grains become saturated, which can lead to overheating of the wheat while the oil provides additional fuel, presenting even more of a risk.
Since 2002 the numbers of incidents involving wheat bags has remained fairly constant but in 2010 the numbers of incidents increased by 500 per cent compared to 2009.
In the UK, fires starting from wheat bags are known to have caused three deaths and injury to an elderly couple.
You have been warned!