A water bottle left in your car with the hot sun beating down on it could have terrible – and somewhat ironic – consequences.
The water, combined with the shape of the bottle and the glare of the sun, can start a fire, though firefighters do say that it’s unlikely.
“Sunlight will come through when it’s filled with liquid, and act as a magnifying glass like you would with regular optics,” David Richardson, of the Midwest City Fire Department in Oklahoma, explained to Local 10 News. “The liquid and the clear material develop a focused beam, and sure enough, it can actually cause a fire.”
The TV station tested it outside of a car, trying to use a full, regular water bottle to ignite a piece of paper. Richardson said they heated the paper up to 250 degrees, but due to cloud cover that day it did not light on fire.
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“I feel confident that if it was sunny we would’ve been able to re-create the same scenario,” Richardson said.
Idaho Power illustrated the same concept with a video posted to their Facebook page in July. In the video, a water bottle left in direct sunlight caused burn marks in the car seats and smoke. It was removed before any actual fire started.
Dioni Amuchastegui, a battery technician for Idaho Power, said he noticed the smoke from inside his vehicle while he was eating his lunch.
“I was a little bit surprised, I actually had to do a double take and checked it again,” he said. “Sure enough, it was super hot. I even stuck my hand under the light – it was hard to believe at first.”
Officials recommend keeping water bottles in the car out of direct sunlight.