An elderly woman from Sydney's northern beaches got a fright
when her microwave burst into flames as she was warming up a
homemade heat pack.
The fire started in her Narrabeen kitchen last week after she
heated up a wheat bag for more than 20 minutes, with Fire
& Rescue NSW having to extinguish the blaze.
A similar fire occurred in South Coogee just two days later.
So far this year, NSW firefighters have been called out to at
least eight fires started by wheat bags or heat packs.
The incidents have prompted authorities to warn consumers of
the dangers of using wheat bags to warm up this winter.
NSW Fire & Rescue Assistant Commissioner Mark Whybro
warns people to stay away from homemade heat packs.
"If grain-filled heat packs are used incorrectly, they can
ignite and start a fire," he said on Wednesday.
These potentially deadly heat packs are commonly made at home
by filling a cloth pouch with grains such as rice, wheat,
oatmeal or barley.
A heated wheat bag was the likely cause of a fire that killed
80-year-old Sydney woman Margaret Rae in September 2011.
It is believed that after a couple of whiskies while
crocheting in the lounge room, the former nurse headed to bed
with a heated wheat bag.
A fire started in the bedroom of her Caringbah home that
night, and Ms Rae died in hospital from smoke inhalation the
NSW Minister for Fair Trading Matthew Mason-Cox says anyone
using wheat bags, heat packs or wheat-filled stuffed toys
should be wary of the risks involved.
Heat packs should only be used for body aches, not for
warming up beds, where the heat can't escape, he said.
"Wheat bags can be an effective way to treat aches and pains,
(but) it is absolutely essential these products are used
according to the instructions," Mr Mason-Cox said.