Microwave Fire Danger

Millions of kitchen appliances are sold every year. Of course, when you buy one, you assume it's safe. Yet government documents show there are an estimated 147-thousand appliance fires every year.

Many are the result of human error. But a new Consumer Reports investigation reveals some are caused by the appliances themselves.

The Queen Anne High School condominiums are in a lovely landmarked building. But tenant Joe Lyons is afraid for his safety.

The condo board says he's one of ten residents who've reported KitchenAid microwaves that have started on their own, and in at least one case caused electrical arcing.

Lyons says, "I feel unsafe, especially when I heard the stories around the building of the sparking being so intense it sounded like fireworks."

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says another fire in a Florida home was caused by the same microwave, the KitchenAid model KHMS-166-LSS.

Consumer Reports looked at thousands of pages of CPSC documents in its investigation of appliance fires, including many obtained through its Freedom of Information Act requests.

Dan DiClerico of Consumer Reports says, "41 of the CPSC reports involved KitchenAid microwaves that turned on by themselves, some causing fires."

Consumer Reports also examined similar reports involving some GE microwaves, six of which involved serious fires.

DiClerico says, "The reports listed various models, but 30 complaints involved the GE Spacemaker line of over-the-range microwave."

None of those microwaves has been recalled. And the problem is not limited to these two manufacturers.

The Consumer Produce Safety Commission told Consumer Reports it has "an open investigation into the safety of kitchen appliances, including microwaves."

If you have a problem with your microwave, unplug it and get a technician in to look at it.

And it's a good idea to know which circuit breaker turns off the microwave in case of an emergency.

Whirlpool, which owns KitchenAid, says it has not been able to verify a single report of a self-starting microwave.

GE told Consumer Reports that it "has investigated several unverified reports of "self-start" and found them to constitute product quality, not product safety, concerns.

Many have been determined not to be "self-starts" at all.

If you're experiencing a problem with any appliance, Consumer Reports says notify the manufacturer immediately. And report the problem to saferproducts.gov.

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