A Leighton Buzzard firefighter is warning about the dangers of heatable wheatbags after his eight-year-old son went to bed with one which caught fire.
Richie Burton purchased three cute animal-shaped wheatbags for each of his children this Christmas – blissfully unaware of the drama that would unfold on Boxing Day evening. After heating up the Top Shop product in the microwave as per the instructions, Richie placed the novelty ‘dog’ under his son’s duvet at bedtime.
But soon afterwards the youngster alerted him to the fact “something wasn’t right”... and moments after Richie had grabbed the bag he spotted a flame coming out of it.
“I’ve been a firefighter for 14 years. And I’ve never had anything like this,” he said.
“I’ve got three kids at home. They all got one of these for Christmas. They’ve got hot water bottles but they get cold very quickly, so I picked up two from New Look which appear to have plastic beads that heat up and were fine, and the third from Top Shop in Bedford.
“This one was different in that it was wheat-filled. It was put in the microwave on Boxing Day at 8pm.
The instruction said heat for 45 seconds and it smelt hot. I knew it would smell because of the wheat, so I didn’t think much of it.
“I gave it to my boy who is 8. He was in bed and he would normally have his hot water bottle at night.
“He had it under his duvet. It was lucky he was awake. It was him who said ‘it doesn’t smell right’. It if had been a three-year-old tucked under the blanket... it doesn’t bear thinking about.”
Richie, who lives in Leighton Buzzard, said: “What I had thought was steam was actually smoke. It was a 20 second dash to the kitchen and a flame came out of it. I put it in the sink and drenched it. I opened the velcro and the pack that was stitched in there had its wheat pour out.
“Inside there was a label which you wouldn’t see which said every third time you heat it up put a cup of water in there too to rehydrate the wheat.”
He pointed out: “This was the first use, not the third time. And according to the outside instructions we did everything right.
“It’s not the end of the world for us, it’s more the fact that quite a lot of people might have got these for Christmas.”
A spokesman for Top Shop said: “We are in direct contact with the customer on this matter.”
Wheatbags - commonly used to treat aching muscles and arthritis – have in recent years also been sold in the shape of cartoon characters and teddy bears to appeal to children.
Back in 2014, warnings about the dangers of using microwaveable wheat bags were issued after a pensioner became the first person to die when one set fire to the bed she was sleeping in.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said at the time: “To use microwaveable wheat bags safely, follow the instructions and pay particular attention to the wattage of the microwave, as the higher the wattage, the quicker the wheat bag will heat up, so this may vary the length of time it needs to be in the microwave for.
“Extra care should be taken by parents if these products are used by children. If the wheat bag doesn’t carry any instructions, be very wary about using it.”