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Fire caused by focussed light from a vanity mirror

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The vanity mirror focused the suns rays on the curtains

The vanity mirror focused the suns rays on the curtains

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The resulting heat caused the curtains to start to burn

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As the sun moved the across the sky the rays became focused on the the window frame

As the sun moved the across the sky the rays became focused on the the window frame

How this fire happened

Focussed sunlight from a vanity mirror is believed to have burnt both an adjacent curtain and the sash of a uPVC window.

The vanity mirror was placed on top of a chest of drawers next to a west-facing window in a first floor room.

This incident came to the attention of Kent Fire and Rescue Service during a home safety visit carried out by one of KFRS' Home Safety Visit Officers.

Upon viewing the burn marks, the HSV Officer believed they may have been caused by focussed sunlight from a vanity mirror and immediately alerted the Fire Investigation and Research Team who, upon visiting the property, confirmed this as the most likely cause.

The effect it had

"While cleaning I noticed marks on the curtain. When the man from the fire service came, I asked him if he could have a look and asked him what he thought caused it.

"First of all it didn't cross my mind that sunlight could cause a fire. When you think of fire you think of the obvious causes; smoking, cooking, fires caused in the kitchen. It was just something that wouldn't come naturally to mind.

"Since then, I've moved the mirror. Now I'm glad that we know what it is so we can avoid it happening again. I'm just relieved that it didn't become a dangerous fire. I just hope it stops somebody else having a fire."

Safety message

The sun's rays can be magnified by a lens or magnifying mirror and become focused on a nearby object such as curtains, clothing or even wooden or plastic furniture, fixtures or fittings.

This can cause scorching, or charring potentially leading to smouldering or flaming ignition of the object.

In the evening, morning and during the winter, when the sun is lower on the horizon, the shallower angle at which the sun's rays hit the earth means that it is particularly important to be aware of objects, such as magnifying vanity mirrors and glass ornaments, which may be left exposed to direct sunlight.

Most commonly this is because they are placed on top of shelves or drawers which are next to a window.

While this type of fire may seem like one of the more unusual cases, in principle it is the same as focussing the sun's rays with a magnifying glass and, as this case clearly demonstrates, sunlight being focussed by everyday objects can indeed set light to things in the home.

Fortunately, quick thinking by both the occupier and the Home Safety Visit Officer has prevented a potentially serious fire.

Further information

Do you have a similar story?

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Please send us your details and a comments via our on-line feedback form.

Acknowledgement

This case study was contributed by :

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Latest Update :
03 February 2015
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