Two house fires started by sun rays reflecting off mirrors

warrington fireFirefighters are asking everyone to not put glass and reflective items on windowsills after sunlight reflecting off mirrors caused fires in two homes in six days.

The warning comes due to the sun being low in the sky at this time of year so it can catch people out.

Bedroom curtains caught fire at a home in Poulton-with-Fearnhead, Warrington just before 2.30pm on September 9.

Three fire engines were called to the scene and the cause was identified as a magnifying mirror reflecting onto curtains. Thankfully the quick thinking occupier was able to shut the door on his way out so fire didn’t have the oxygen to grow and was contained to a bedroom.

Bob and Susan Stephens were in the property at the time. Bob said: “We’ve been really lucky as it could have been much worse. I was working from home in the office we have on the second floor when I heard all three linked smoke alarms going off. I was on a team call with colleagues at the time and they thought I should go and see what it was as initially. I thought it was something cooking and burning.

“I went down the stairs and there was thick black smoke and the heat instantly hit my face. I could see it was coming from the bedroom so I quickly shut the door and grabbed a duvet cover that was drying on the landing to put it at the bottom of the door. I was shouting to my wife to get out and call 999 but a neighbour was outside and had heard the smoke alarms and the bedroom window crack so she had already made the call.

“We got our 16-year-old daughter, Jasmine, and our two dogs and we all went out outside to wait for the firefighters to arrive, which was literally a couple of minutes. The fire was confined to the bedroom with some smoke damage in a couple of other rooms so we are thankful for that.

“Since the fire I’ve told loads of people about how it started as I couldn’t believe it could happen. I hope anyone reading this that has a magnifying mirror will now go and move it out of the way of sunlight after reading about our ordeal.”

Higher WhitleyThe second fire occurred in the afternoon of September 14 in Higher Whitley, which also involved a mirror and curtains catching fire. Two fire engines attended from Lymm and Stockton Heath.

Ashlee Crook lives at the property with her boyfriend and dog Byron and came home from work early to smoke alarms sounding. She said: “I wasn’t sure what the sound was when I pulled onto the drive and there was nothing visual to see from outside but when I opened the door I could smell smoke and there was a fog inside so the first thing I thought of was to turn off the electricity supply. My thought was it’s electrical due to the smell but I am very careful and do always turn everything off when I go out so it was confusing initially.

“I then went to go upstairs and I could instantly see jet black smoke coming down the stairs. Thankfully the dog had fled outside already so I got myself out and dialled the emergency services and both fire engines arrived really quickly.

“I feel so relieved that I came home from work early that day because I can’t imagine how far the fire would have spread otherwise, or if Byron would have been ok.

“One thing I’m going to look at now is smoke alarms that are connected to a call centre as our home is not in a built up area so this will give me the peace of mind when I’m out in future. Also I’m not putting the mirror back where it was as I never thought for a minute this would have happened and neither can anyone else that I’ve spoken to about it.”

Low sun at this time of year and direct sunlight on mirrors pose a real concern for firefighters. Even during cold spells, the rays from the sun can be very strong and come in at a low angle.

Both fires were investigated by Station Manager Lee McGarity. He said: “I’m glad that the people at both these properties and their dogs are all ok and that the damage is minimal in comparison to what it could have been if the fires had not been detected so soon.

“These fires were started by the reflected light from the sun, which directed rays from magnifying vanity mirrors onto curtains. The material then smoldered and caught fire.

“Fires started like this are more common at this time of year when the sun lies quite low in the sky. If you have a magnifying mirror or other items containing lenses or glass items such as paperweights in your home then please ensure they are not facing the sun or in a place where the sun can reflect from them on to materials or objects.

“Have a look around your home and see if you have anything on your window sill, bedside table or on a desk that comes into direct contact with the sun. Can you place this item out of direct sunlight? If so please do, to be on the safe side.”

Safety advice includes:

  • Keep magnifying mirrors out of direct sunlight

  • Never put glass ornaments or paperweights on window sills

  • Never place glass ornaments or paperweights in direct sunlight

  • Make sure shaving or vanity mirrors are not left on window sills

  • Be aware of objects in your home such as shaving or vanity mirrors and glass ornaments or paperweights that may be exposed to direct sunlight

For more fire safety advice please visit www.cheshirefire.gov.uk

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