As a reporter, I’m used to dealing with fires and emergencies, writes reporter Tom Cotterill.
So imagine my shock when I received an urgent call from my mum saying our family home, in Apple Tree Walk, Climping, was ablaze.
But it was not the fact that a fire had broken out that was the curious part of this story – it was how it started.
My mum, Sylvana, described how her bedroom curtain and dressing table caught fire – after a magnifying makeup mirror intensified the sun’s rays to start the small blaze on Wednesday (October 21).
She had been out with my dad, Steve, before she decided to cut their shopping trip short – a decision which Sylvana, 61, said “saved” our beloved home.
“As soon as we got to the front door we could hear our smoke alarm blaring,” she said.
“There was thick and acrid smoke everywhere in the house. I ran upstairs and saw it was all coming from my bedroom.
“As I opened the door, I saw there was a small fire burning on my dressing table which had set the curtain alight. I was horrified.”
Officials from West Sussex Fire and Rescue believe it was a combination of the low-lying winter sun and the makeup mirror which sparked the blaze.
“As a family, we’re now urging other people to think carefully about where they leave their mirrors in an effort to avoid future tragedies.
“If we had been five minutes later, I’m certain the fire would really have caught hold and could have destroyed the house.
“It’s such a little thing. I never gave it a second thought, but we came very close to losing everything,” said Sylvana.
Homes destroyed by similar fires
A spokeswoman for West Sussex Fire and Rescue said that although uncommon, incidents like this could cause serious damage to homes.
A similar blaze in Haywards Heath, in 2010, almost completely destroyed a house.
She added: “The rays can be intensified and become focused on a nearby object such as curtains, clothing or even wooden or plastic furniture. This can cause scorching or charring, potentially leading to a smouldering or flaming ignition.”
The fire service is urging people to not leave mirrors in a position where direct rays of sunlight can reflect off them.