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East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service logo

Microwaves can be a fire hazard

Date : 08 September 2020


East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service is issuing a safety message around fires in the kitchen following a second microwave fire in the space of just a few days.

Despite celebrating our lowest levels of accidental dwelling fires in the home, we still want to go further, as we have seen two microwave-related kitchen fires in the past few days.

Last night (7 September) at 20.38 four crews were sent to Marina Street, St Leonards-on-Sea, following reports of a house fire. The fire started in a microwave and one woman was rescued by crews and left in the care of paramedics.

Microwaves are a popular household appliance but it is important that special care is taken to avoid the dangers.

Electrical Safety First  has some useful advice on microwave safety, including the following:

Can I put metal objects in the microwave?

Unlike plastics and ceramics, metals reflect microwaves (which means they can’t pass through). So if you put your microwave meal in a metal dish, it won’t allow it to heat up correctly. Thinner pieces of metals, for example foils, can act as an antenna, which can create sparks. This is extremely dangerous and could cause your microwave to set on fire. It’s essential you remember not to put them in your microwave.

Can I put plastic object in the microwave?

You should only ever microwave things which clearly state that they are microwave safe. Do not use any containers, foam trays or any plastic storage bags that are not specifically designed for microwave use. This is because they could melt and cause damage to you and your appliance. It’s also important to be aware that some microwaveable plastic containers specify a maximum continuous exposure time, so always check the label, or contact the manufacturer for clarification. If in doubt, you could always use a suitable ceramic container instead!

Can you boil a cup of water in a microwave?

Boiling a cup of water in a microwave could cause it to explode.

What causes a microwave to spark?

Any food that has splattered, or dripped, in the microwave can continue to cook, causing sparks inside your microwave. Make sure you regularly clean and maintain your electrical appliances.

Microwave fires can also be caused by overheating wheat bags in the microwave – read our Black Museum case study to find out how.

If an electrical appliance catches fire, don't throw water on it.

A working, well maintained smoke alarm will give you valuable minutes in the event of a fire and allow you time to escape.

  • Pulling the appliance's plug out
  • Switching off the power at the fuse box
  • If the fire doesn't go out, get out of the house, stay out and call 999.


More information on cooking safely

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