How this fire happened

Our firefighters often attend incidents where the sun’s rays have been concentrated by reflective or focussing objects including mirrors, spectacles, paperweights or plastic items and caused flammable objects placed nearby to smoulder and sometimes catch fire.

In East Sussex we have attended around 20 similar incidents in the past four years and it is a common problem seen by other fire and rescue services.

 

These incidents tend to occur in rooms with south facing windows and, paradoxically, are more common in autumn and winter when the sun is lower in the sky.

In this incident, the householder had placed three mirrors on furniture near to a southeast facing window and on the day of the fire had left the house on a bright and sunny autumn afternoon.

 

The positioning of the mirrors concentrated the rays onto clothing that had been placed on the back of a wicker chair causing them to catch fire.

The householders were lucky on this occasion and returned to find the property filled with smoke.

 

Thankfully the fire had not taken hold and damage was restricted to the bedroom, but it could have been much worse had it not been discovered so early, as is illustrated by similar cases on the Black Museum.

Safety message​

  • Consider storing objects such as magnifying glasses, mirrors, spectacles and glass ornaments away from windows, particularly if it is south facing, or covering them when not in use.
     

  • Take extra care during the autumn and winter months when the sun is low in the sky.
     

  • Get into the habit of closing internal doors when you leave home and as part of your bedtime routine.
     

  • Test your smoke alarm every week.

  • Place objects capable of focussing the sun’s rays close to the window and combustible materials such as upholstery, curtains or paper.

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