During the summer, we all get used to leaving a bottle of water in the car in order to stay hydrated and withstand high temperatures. But our simple daily habit can be catastrophic and extremely dangerous.
This conclusion was reached by an employee of a US electrification company, who was in his lunch break from work, when he found out that smoke was coming under the center console of his car. The cause, as he realized surprised a few minutes later, was a plastic bottle of water . “I went over to look and I noticed that the light was refracted through the bottle, causing it to catch fire,” said Dioni Amuchastegui in social media.
The case caught the attention of thousands, including the Midwest City Fire Department in Oklahoma. The fire department even ran a test of their own.
“Vinyl generally starts to burn at 455 degrees,” David Richardson, of the Midwest City Fire Department, told CBS News. “It wouldn’t take very long to start a fire if conditions were right — depends on how focused that beam of light is.”
Richardson re-created Amuchastegui’s experiment, burning a hole through a piece of paper using a small plastic bottle.
“The air temperature doesn’t matter,” Richardson explained. “It works just like a magnifying glass, like one that you would use to burn leaves as a kid. It’s the same principle.”
Drivers don’t have to worry about leaving out dark-colored drinks or tinted bottles, but Richardson recommends storing clear plastic water bottles under your seat and away from sunlight. If you notice a burning odor or cigarette-sized burn start to form, Richardson advises pushing the bottle out of the sunlight to break the beam of light.
“It’s not a crisis. We don’t know of this happening or becoming a contributing factor of car fires in our district, but the potential does exist,” he adds.