You’ve turned off the oven, unplugged the toaster and the space heater, blown out the candles, and you never smoke in bed. The alarms are charged, and you’ve got your exit route planned and labeled. Seems like you’ve done all you can in terms of fire safety. OR HAVE YOU?
It turns out there are still more ways to start a fire that you’ve probably never even considered, and this new way involves one of fire’s only natural enemies: water.
This video of a hunky battery technician from the Idaho Power Company named Dioni Amuchastegui is gaining traction again as summer temperatures threaten vehicles. Amuchastegui was walking by a truck on his break when he noticed a little smoke inside a parked van, WYFF 4 reports. And you know what they say—where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Amuchastegui did a helpful dramatic reenactment in a Facebook video for the power company, in an effort to warn people that the water bottles they leave in their cars on hot days pose a potential danger to their belongings.
The water bottle acts sort of like a magnifying glass, refracting and focusing the light. If you’re a little psycho who burned up ants in the driveway as a kid, you know exactly how powerful a focused beam of sunlight can be. If you weren’t, you had that classmate, and avoided them.
What’s especially scary about it is that the bottle was just casually tossed on the seat. You don’t have to be a mad genius engineer to start a fire in a car, MacGyver-style. Amuchastegui showed how the bottle looked when he saw it smoking out the van:
And the very real burn marks that were starting on the seat:
You can see his entire process in the short video:
What’s funny about this potentially devastating occurrence is that it’s been a rumor for a long time that water bottles could start car fires, but the rumor had been dismissed as an urban legend.
The Midwest City Fire Department tried to prove it to everyone with a test, igniting a fire using a water bottle that went up to 250 degrees, KFOR reported at the time.
“The sunlight will come through, when it’s filled with liquid, and act as a magnifying glass as you would with regular optics,” said Firefighter David Richardson.
“It uses the liquid and the clear material to develop a focused beam and sure enough, it can actually cause a fire, a combustion.”
But there was also a post from Hoaxslayer in 2008, in which they experimented with a variety of bottle shapes and sizes to see what the likelihood of water starting a fire really was. In their determination, they tried a number of different bottles and discovered it was indeed possible with any clear bottle in the right lighting conditions.
So, what to do? Well, you could throw your bottle under the seat, cover it up so the light won’t hit it, or carry it with you. Or buy a dark reusable container if you don’t trust yourself to do any of those things.
Though I like this survivalist angle:
Instead of seeing this new potential for starting a fire as a negative, see it as a positive! You may someday want to start a fire with a water bottle.
But most people are seeing the negative, because we all prefer to live in terror:
Except this guy. He gets it:
When life gives you car fires, make lemonade and offer it to the cute guy who puts it out. Just don’t put it in a clear plastic bottle.