Wheat bag microwave miscalculation puts woman in hospital

AN elderly lady who microwaved her wheat bag for 30 minutes instead of 30 seconds got a nasty fright yesterday.

The wheat bag over heated and when firefighters arrived on scene the bag was found charred and smoking.

"It just cooked it," Tweed Heads Fire and Rescue NSW Senior Firefighter Bruce Ransome said.

"When we got there it was outside and was charred.

"Smoke was in the house and it had to be ventilated."

Paramedics transported the woman to Tweed Hospital in a stable condition.

The incident at the Cobaki Village, and a more serious incident in Sydney, has prompted Fire and Rescue NSW and NSW Fair Trading to urge people not use wheat bags or gel packs as bed warmers.

In Sydney a man managed to escape his unit after a fire broke out in his bedroom yesterday morning.

A spokeswoman for Fire and Rescue NSW said the man heated a gel heat pack in his microwave before putting it into his bed for two hours to warm the bed up.

While it was in the bed, the heat pack caught fire and completely destroyed the bedroom.

The remainder of the unit sustained heat and water damage.

He was taken to hospital by paramedics from NSW Ambulance.

Commissioner Greg Mullins said fire-fighters were seeing an emerging trend of fires and injuries involving wheat bags.

"Fires have been caused by heat packs and wheat bags being overheated in the microwave and catching alight when they've been used as bed warmers," he said.

"Heat packs and wheat bags are designed to be used for aches and pains and that's what they should be used for. Wheat bags and heat packs can ignite and are not designed to replace hot water bottles for warming beds, especially by children or elderly people."


Fire and Rescue NSW released a number of safety tips when using heat packs.

  • Don't overheat the heat pack by placing it in the microwave longer than specified by the manufacturer.
  • Don't leave the wheat bag or heat pack unsupervised in the microwave.
  • Place a glass of water in the microwave when heating wheat bags - this ensures the bag does not dry out or overheat.
  • Don't let anyone, particularly children or the elderly, sleep with a heat pack
  • Don't use heat packs to warm your bed up, as they may spontaneously ignite.
  • Don't reheat the wheat bag or heat pack before it has properly cooled.
  • Wheat bags and heat packs should be cooled down on a non-combustible surface before storing.

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