Watch Out: Leaving Bottled Water In Your Car Could Start A Fire!

August 20, 2017
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August is the hottest month of the year in most parts of the country, and drinking water to stay hydrated is so important.

While it may seem tempting, your car is one of the worst places to keep bottled water: it can start a fire.

This is exactly what happened last month to Dioni Amuchastegui, a battery technician with Idaho Power, when he saw smoke from beneath the center console of his truck during his lunch break.

“At first I thought it was dust, but the window was rolled up so there was no wind,” he told TODAY. “Then I noticed that light was being refracted through a water bottle and it was actually smoke.”

The man moved the bottle before it could do more damage, but the fire managed to burn two small holes in the front seat of his truck.

Amuchastegui decided he would safely recreate the combustion with his team at Idaho Power, sharing the video on the company’s Facebook page on July 13.”It’s not something you really expect, having a water bottle catch your chair on fire,” Amuchastegui said  “I actually had to do a double take the first time.”

The video got the attention of the Midwest City Fire Department in Oklahoma, who referenced it on their Facebook page as a public safety warning, albeit low-risk, during the sunny summer months.

The conditions must be just right,” David Richardson, a spokesperson for the Midwest City Fire Department, explained to TODAY. “The bottle has to have liquid, the liquid has to be clear, the bottle has to be clear and sunlight has to pass through it at the right angle.”

Another factor is the rounded shape of the bottle. On a hot sunny day, the light shines through the front windshield, through the full water bottle and that water focuses the light — and its heat — onto 1 point. That concentrated beam may exceed 400 degrees on a darker surface within seconds. That’s basically hot enough to spark a fire, according to Richardson.

He stressed that these conditions cannot be met in a moving vehicle or when the sun shines on a bottle through a tinted window.

While the risk for a sustainable fire is rather unlikely (his department has no record of vehicle fires resulting from this method), his team was also able to recreate the same combustion as Amuchastegui with only a small bottle of water and 1 dark sheet of paper.

So instead of leaving your bottled water baking in the car for hours, take it along with you! Drinking water that’s been baking for hours in the car, shouldn’t really be consumed anyway!

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