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Magnified sunlight, reading glasses, paper towels almost leads to house fire say firies


Feb. 14, 2020

The South Australia Metropolitan Fire Service is urging people to be careful after a bathroom in the state's mid-north almost caught alight.
Key points:
Vicki Heydon came home to find a roll of paper towel on her bathroom vanity smouldering
She says she had left a pair of glasses on the windowsill which reflected the sun's light
SA MFS says it is unusual, but not unheard of
Port Pirie resident Vicki Heydon came home to find the roll of paper towels she had left on her bathroom vanity was smouldering.
She had placed a pair of glasses on the windowsill which she said had reflected the sun's rays coming through the frosted window onto the paper towels, almost causing a fire.
"It was on one of the really hot days and I'd gone into the bathroom and I could smell a slight scorching, something really hot," Ms Heydon said.
"It wasn't till later in the evening, when I went in again that I worked out what it was.
"Why it would have happened was because I'd put a pair of glasses up on the window ledge earlier in the morning when I was tidying up.
"I'm definitely not putting my glasses up on the window ledge again and with the hot days, I'll just move the paper towel to the other side of the washbasin."
Uncommon, but dangerous
South Australia Metropolitan Fire Service community engagement officer, Phil Evans, said incidents like this were rare, but did occur, even during cooler months.
"It's not a common occurrence because it needs the sunlight at just the right angle and the glasses in just the right position and some sort of combustible material nearby," Mr Evans said.
"It's an unusual occurrence, but it's certainly not unheard of."
Mr Evans said he had been approached before by people with similar stories.
"I've spoken to an occupant of an Adelaide home where a similar incident started with a large fish-shaped glass ornament on a coffee table," he said.
"The sunlight was magnified as it passed through the glass ornament and it resulted in scorching on the coffee table.
"There's certainly a possibility that enough heat would be generated with this light being magnified that a light and easily combustible piece of material may go on to become a flaming fire."
Ensure working smoke alarms
Mr Evans has cautioned people to be aware of potential fire risks around their homes.
"An ornament which may magnify the light, a heater, an iron, a toaster — all of those things that are common everyday items can introduce a level of fire risk within the home," he said.
"Always make sure you have working smoke alarms in your home so, if an unusual event like this unfolded, at least you'd be alerted and everyone in the house would be alerted."
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