COLUMN: Magnifying objects can cause fires...

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Among the first questions anybody asks when talking about a fire are: what was the cause and How did it start?

This is the case whether the fire took hold of a house, a car, a tree or even just a small dustbin. Sometimes fires can be fairly small, but the question of how it started always remains.

There’s a lot of reasons for asking this question, and one of the main reasons for us is because we want to know what caused a fire, so we can try and prevent the same thing happening again in the future.

Common causes range from electrical to deliberate and then, very often purely accidental – a candle, for example. Sometimes fires can be caused by people carelessly discarding cigarettes, and we also see a lot of cooking fires.

One cause that isn’t so common, however, is the sun’s rays being intensified by magnifying objects that have been placed near windows. When we say magnifying objects, we mean things such as mirrors and paperweights, as well as other things such as fish bowls and even glasses of water.

This is something we saw only recently in Southwell, when the sun’s rays were concentrated onto a set of curtains by a concave mirror. This intense heat led to the curtains setting on fire, which then saw a call to our Newark and Southwell crews.

Fortunately nobody was hurt in this incident, as the fire was extinguished before it had chance to fully develop, but it could have been a lot worse. What it has done though is emphasise the need for people, especially in October and March when the sun is low, to be really careful when it comes to leaving these magnifying objects so close to windows.

It also acts as a reminder of the importance of having working smoke alarms, on every level of your home, that are tested regularly. They really can be lifesavers.