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Smouldering wheat bag causes house fire
A smoke alarm has helped save the life of a Shepparton woman who woke to discover her house had filled with smoke and fire from an overheated wheat bag left smouldering in a rubbish bin overnight on Tuesday 17 March.
The incident has prompted firefighters in the north-east to reiterate warnings about wheat bags, which can ignite after being heated in a microwave.
The woman, aged 78, was unhurt but was treated in hospital for smoke inhalation.
Shepparton Senior Station Officer Peter Dedman said wheat bags should never be left unattended in the microwave. “Earlier that evening the resident had accidentally set the microwave for too long and the bag has overheated and kitchen filled with smoke,” he said.
“The centre of the wheat pack must have been so hot inside that it was smouldering away and the occupant has put it in the rubbish bin in the laundry. Then, while she was sleeping the rubbish has ignited and caused a significant fire in the laundry.”
Mr Dedman said the woman had woken at 3am by a smoke alarm, and, after discovering she was unable to exit the home via the locked front security screen, had called Triple Zero. “In this instance, having a working smoke alarm has probably saved this lady’s life,” he said.
“She has done the right thing by calling Triple Zero immediately and following the directions given by the fire brigade call taker, the call taker has also done a very good job guiding her through what to do.
“It was a very risky situation because the front security screen door was locked, the back exit by the laundry was blocked by fire, and she was unable to reach her keys.
“Fortunately firefighters arrived in time to force through the security door and walk her to safety. Mr Dedman said “the occupant was waiting inside the house, at the front door, talking to the call taker when we arrived, smoke and heat were coming out the front door.
“Two minutes later and it could have been a different story.”
As we move into the cooler months, which typically bring an increase in house fires, firefighters are reminding residents to carry out routine checks on their smoke alarms and avoid deadlocking themselves in their homes overnight.
“Never lock yourself in – your house could become a prison,” Mr Dedman said.
CFA has developed an online home fire safety checklist to make it easier for people to cover off on all the hazards to look out for. Go to cfa.vic.gov.au/fires-in-the-home.