London Fire Brigade

Brigade step up sunlight warning after another refraction blaze

26 February 2015

The winter sun caused another fire on Monday when a concave mirror focussed sunlight onto a shirt that was draped over a chair in East Dulwich.

Firefighters have reiterated their warning about the dangers of fires caused by direct sunlight. The new sunlight blaze is the third in a week but thankfully it only caused a small amount of damage to the house on Peckham Rye at around 2pm.

The Nutella jar fire incident - which has received worldwide coverage - and a small fire in the Mayfair home of lingerie tycoon Michelle Mone, were the other two. Mone told her 889,000 Twitter followers, sunlight had refracted off of a mirror onto a bean bag. She put the fire out herself and the Brigade didn’t attend.

How sunlight shining on mirrors and glass objects can cause fires

In the last five years we've seen 125 fires caused by the sun's rays. These incidents don't only happen in the summer and our stats show that seven fires have been caused that way in this winter alone.

Charlie Pugsley from the Brigade's fire investigation unit said:

"These sort of fires are not as rare as you would think. I’ve seen everything from sparkly door knobs to crystal balls starting fires.

"Crystal and glass ornaments and items such as mirror tables should be kept out of direct sunlight. This shows these fires are not an urban myth. Also make sure that you have a working smoke alarm on every level of your home."

Last July fire crews dealt with a house fire in Clapham that was caused by the sun's rays refracting through a crystal door knob and onto a dressing gown hanging from the door which then caught fire. Fortunately, the house was empty at the time and a smoke alarm alerted builders working on an adjacent house who called us. 

Earlier in that year we attended an incident in Romford when a crystal ball set light to curtains. In summer 2013, firefighters tackled a fire in Enfield caused by a vanity mirror which also set fire to curtains. 

The Brigade’s top three safety tips are:

  • Keep mirrors and crystal or glass objects away from the sunny sills
  • Fit at least one smoke alarm per floor and test them every week to make sure they work and the batteries are not flat.
  • If you have a fire, close the door on the blaze, get out stay out and call the Brigade