Mother speaks of family's lucky escape after sunlight causes blaze

Salisbury Journal: The damage done by sunlight hitting a vanity mirror and starting a fire. DC1944P2 The damage done by sunlight hitting a vanity mirror and starting a fire. DC1944P2

A YOUNG family in Quidhampton had a lucky escape when sunlight - reflecting off a vanity mirror on a bedside table - set fire to a pair of curtains.

Julie Lanchbery, 30, was alerted to the fire when her smoke alarm went off.

Thinking it was the hot weather or that someone had lit a bonfire nearby she went upstairs to look out of the window and discovered her bedroom was full of black smoke.

She said: “I could smell burning plastic and heard a bang from inside the bedroom.

“I walked in to see the curtains on fire and black smoke everywhere.

“I ran outside and called the fire brigade who were absolutely brilliant - they were here within five or six minutes and they did such a good job of calming me down.”

Firefighters believe the fire started as a result of the sun shining through the window onto the magnifying side of a vanity mirror which was then reflected onto the curtains.

Mrs Lanchbery said: “We had pulled the blinds down to keep the house cool as it does get really hot in the weather and there was probably a six inch gap where the sunlight came through.

“It's just scarily simple that a mirror and sunshine can do that. Had I not been working at home then it doesn't really bear thinking about.”

Firefighters were able to contain the fire to the one room but smoke damage has meant all three bedrooms in the house need to be completely redecorated and the carpets replaced. The fire on July 26 is one of five in Wiltshire to have occurred in the last two years as a result of the sun's rays being reflected onto fabric or other flammable material.

Jackie Tozer of Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service said: “While these sorts of fires are not common, the evidence of the last couple of years shows that there is a real risk and it is something that is easily avoided.

“Our advice is simple - never leave a mirror on a windowsill or surface where sunlight can bounce off the glass, and be careful about where you place glass or crystal ornaments. “The angle of the sun changes as the day progresses, so extra care is needed.”

She added: “The fire at Quidhampton was contained to the one room because the property had a working smoke detector, which raised the alarm.

“We would encourage everyone to make sure they have smoke detectors fitted in their homes, and please check them weekly - they can save lives.”

For more information about home fire safety, visit www.wiltsfire.gov.uk .

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