Fire warning after mirror almost sparks disaster

Sylvia Keddie with the cushion that started to smoulder due to magnified sunlight from her makeup mirror.
Sylvia Keddie with the cushion that started to smoulder due to magnified sunlight from her makeup mirror.

FIRE chiefs have warned households to be wary of where they place their mirrors, after a Galashiels home narrowly avoided a major blaze.

Retired civil servant Sylvia Keddie discovered her Tweed Road maisonette filled with smoke after a cushion began smouldering when sunlight had reflected off the glass to produce an intense heat.

Mrs Keddie, 65, now hopes her story can prevent others from suffering the same fate, or even worse, a serious fire in their home.

She said: “We had painters in the house so I was having to do my make up on the settee in the living room using a huge magnifying mirror.

“I then went out for a coffee with a friend and was going to go straight to pilates but instead decided to go home to get a drink of water.

“I got back and the alarm was going off and a black smoke was everywhere, with the cushion on the settee smouldering.

“I didn’t know how it had happened but when I spoke to someone at pilates about it, they said they had heard of the sun reflecting off mirrors and causing fires before.

“If I had not come back before pilates it could have been a lot worse.”

Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service’s community safety watch commander Neill Forbes said: “It is rare for this scenario to arise in a household setting, however, as proven with this incident, it can happen.

“We would advise residents to be aware of where they place mirrors in their home, including the bathroom, to avoid similar incidents occurring to them, and to ensure they have a working smoke alarm to alert them at the first sign of fire.

“Where we do see many fires igniting in this way is in the countryside, when discarded glass or broken bottles magnify the sun’s rays and start a fire in the grass or gorse.

“So we would also urge residents to discard rubbish in bins or take it home with them if they are out in the countryside.”

Meanwhile, the fire service have told members of the public that phoning 999 immediately after hearing a smoke alarm could save a life, after discovering some people are not following the advice.

A number of recent post-fire investigations revealed cases where people had heard a smoke alarm sounding or suspected a fire but for various reasons did not call the emergency number immediately.

Head of community safety at Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, Alan Horberry, said: “A number of factors appear to be causing delays by the public in alerting the fire and rescue service of a possible emergency.

“More worryingly we’ve discovered through fire investigation interviews after a blaze that often neighbours or passers-by will recall having heard a sounding smoke detector but at the time they have assumed it’s been a false alarm because they may not have seen actual signs of a fire.

“Working smoke detectors can actuate very quickly when they detect smoke, often long before an actual fire breaks out.

“It may be that people are not able to get out of a property themselves, they could be asleep or under the influence of alcohol, therefore the sooner the fire service is aware the sooner we can respond and get firefighters to the scene. Making that call really could mean the difference between life and death.”

Firefighters can carry out a free home safety visit and ensure homes have working smoke detectors. For an appointment, call 0800 169 0320.