Fire crews issue wheat bag warning after Sussex house fire

Firefighters are reminding residents to take extra care with microwavable wheat bags after an elderly resident suffered a fire in her kitchen.

Wheat bags are microwavable bags which are used to relieve pain and muscular discomforts. But there is a fire risk if they are overheated or if the manufacturer’s instructions aren’t followed correctly.  

Late on Saturday evening, firefighters from West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service were sent to a house fire in a kitchen in Lindfield caused by a wheat bag inside the resident’s microwave.

The lady had tried to remove it from the property, after seeing it had caught fire, but the smoke generated by the burning wheat bag had almost overcome her.

The firefighters, who were trained Immediate Emergency Care Responders, administered first aid to relieve her symptoms.

Retained Watch Commander, Phil Pierpoint, said: “Fortunately this resident had spotted when the wheat bag had caught fire. But rather than dial 999 immediately she had tried to tackle the fire herself, as she said she did not wish to be a burden.

"If there is an emergency and we are needed, it is never a burden.

“When the smoke became too much, she did call for the fire and rescue service. In the event of a fire in the home, our advice is always to get out, stay out and 999 for the fire and rescue service.

“We know wheat bags can bring relief to those suffering from pain, and when used correctly they can be effective. But it is so important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when heating the bags to ensure they do not overheat and catch fire.”

Advice from West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service when using wheat bags:

  • Buy a wheat bag with clear heating instructions, and follow those instructions.

  • Keep an eye out for over-use, a smell of burning, smoking or charring.

  • Do not leave the microwave unattended when heating a bag

  • Putting a glass or small container of water in the microwave as you are heating the bag can help keep the wheat moist, making the grains less likely to dry out and ignite

  • Never use the bag more than the manufacture advises.

  • Leave to cool in a safe area and on a non-combustible surface, like a kitchen sink.

  • Do not reheat the bag until it has completely cooled – which could be many hours after initial heating.

  • Use only as a heat pack for direct application to the body, do not use to warm beds, as this can lead to ignition.