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Why it’s risky to leave water bottles in your car, according to first responders

Leaving a water bottle in your car in direct sunlight can be a fire hazard, according to fire department officials.
Leaving a water bottle in your car in direct sunlight can be a fire hazard, according to fire department officials. Idaho Power

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.

“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.

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