Fire check saves couple in Horsham wheat bag fire

West Sussex Fire and Rescue warn of the dangers of heating wheat bags - picture submitted
West Sussex Fire and Rescue warn of the dangers of heating wheat bags - picture submitted

Firefighters are urging people using wheat bags to be extra careful following a fire in Horsham this afternoon (January 8).

Firefighters were called to a bungalow in Cootes Avenue just before 1.30pm this afternoon after a wheat bag left heating in a microwave too long caught alight, filling the property with smoke.

Thankfully, because West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service had previously carried out a Home Fire Safety Check at the property, the occupiers, a couple in their 80s, were protected by a Lifeline System with a specialist ‘Firelink’ smoke alarm. This meant that an operator at a 24-hour monitoring centre was automatically alerted to the fire and could place the 999 call to the Fire Service.

A fire crew from Horsham were on the scene within four minutes and firefighters quickly extinguished the fire, which was contained to the microwave. The female occupier was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.

Wheat bags, heated in microwave ovens, are often used as an additional source of warmth and therapeutic pain relief, but if not used correctly, they can pose a real danger.

Watch Commander Ian Melville, who was in charge at the incident, said afterwards: “Fortunately, on this occasion nobody was seriously hurt, but this incident is a timely reminder of the risk wheat bags carry. All wheat bags should come with manufacturer’s instructions and recommended maximum heating times - it’s really important that people follow those instructions and don’t overheat them.

“The early alert received through the Lifeline system really made a difference. For most people a standard smoke alarm gives them the protection they need, however, there are some residents who may need a little extra assistance, those who have mobility problems or perhaps a disability which means they can’t make such an easy escape. For those people linked smoke alarms are invaluable.”

West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service offers the following simple safety tips for anyone using wheat bags:


. Only buy wheat bags with clear heating instructions

. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions

. Buy bags which include manufacturer’s contact details in case you have a problem

. Watch for overuse: a smell of burning or charring

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


. Overheat (recommended maximum is 3 minutes for most manufacturers)

. Use wheat bags as bed warmers

. Reheat the bag until it has completely cooled, which may be two hours

. Store the bag until it is cold

. Use the bag if you see any evidence of problems

For more advice about using wheat bags or to request a Home Fire Safety Visit call 0845 872 9719 visit the West Sussex Fire and Rescue website