Consumer Reports investigation looks into microwave fire danger

No recalls issued by CPSC

A Consumer Reports investigation reveals numerous fires involving microwaves were caused by the appliances themselves.

In the Queen Anne condominiums in Seattle, tenant Joe Lyons is afraid for his safety. He's one of 10 residents who, according to the condo board, has had problems with their KitchenAid microwaves. They have started on their own, and, in at least one case, caused electrical arcing.

At another development, in Florida, a fire started in a microwave that was not in use, according to the official fire report. Both of those incidents, reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, involved the same microwave, the KitchenAid KHMS155LSS.

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

More than 40 of the CPSC reports involved KitchenAid microwaves that turned on by themselves, some causing fires. Whirlpool, which owns KitchenAid, says it has not been able to verify a single report of a self-starting microwave.

Consumer Reports also examined 82 similar reports involving some GE microwaves, six of which involved serious fires. The reports listed various models, but 30 complaints involved the GE Spacemaker line of over-the-range microwaves. GE told Consumer Reports that it "has investigated 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."

None of those microwaves has been recalled, and the problem is not limited to those 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 have a technician look at it. And it's a good idea to know which circuit breaker turns off the microwave in case of an emergency. It you're experiencing a problem with a microwave or any appliance, Consumer Reports recommends notifying the manufacturer immediately and reporting the problem to

Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars and trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports' website

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