New fire concerns from kitchen microwaves

February 10, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Government documents show there are an estimated 47,000 appliance fires every year. Many are the result of human error.

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 10 residents who've reported KitchenAid microwaves that have started on their own, and in at least one case caused electrical arcing.

KitchenAid microwave owner Joe Lyons said, "I feel unsafe, especially when I heard the stories around the building of the sparking being so intense, it sounded similar to fireworks."

Incidents reported to the consumer product safety commission, involved the same microwave, KitchenAid model khms-155-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.

"41 of the CPSC reports involved KitchenAid microwaves that turned on by themselves, with some causing fires."

Consumer reports also examined 82 similar reports involving some GE microwaves, six of which involved serious fires.

Dan Diclerico of Consumer Reports said, "The reports listed various models, but 30 complaints involved the GE Spacemaker line of over-the-range microwaves."

None of those microwaves has been recalled. The problem is not limited to these two manufacturers. The consumer product 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. 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 unverified reports of 'self-start' and found them to constitute product quality, not product safety, concerns.

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