Adhere to storage instructions on packaging and keep objects out of sunlight – after box of medical dressings catches fire: urges HWFRS

windowsill scorching Kidderminster July 2022

Following a serious fire in Wolverley, Kidderminster, in which a box of medical dressings ignited after being left in direct sunlight and set fire to bedroom fittings, HWFRS is reminding people about the importance of safe storage of flammable materials and following manufacturers’ packaging guidance and warnings.

Additionally, it is vital that people keep objects away from sunlight coming through glass, and – as was the case here – ensure that smoke alarms are fitted (and regularly tested).

A crew from Wyre Forest deployed to a bedroom fire at about 08.30 am on Tuesday 12 July 2022. On arrival, they discovered the fire had been extinguished but there was considerable fire damage to the windowsill, including charring and soot deposition in the room, and glass broken by heat.

Fire investigators concluded, after discussion with the homeowner, that the fire had been caused by a box of medical dressings igniting, after it had been left in direct sunshine on a windowsill.

This was despite the packaging clearly stating clearly that it should be kept away from sunlight and stored in a cool, dry place.

The packaging is believed to have ignited as a result of high ambient heat from the sunlight igniting paraffin in the dressings. Although solid at room temperatures, paraffin begins to melt above about 37 °C.

The sunshine would have converged or refracted through the bedroom window’s two layers of double glazing.

In addition, in preparing to go out, the occupier believes they may have disturbed the packet while retrieving a bottle of perfume, likely increasing the ventilation level

and fuelling the combustion.

Fire Investigation Officer, Group Commander Martin Lown, said:

“It is vital that people both adhere to the instructions on packaging and keep objects out of direct sunlight, not just during the current heatwave when rooms can reach high temperatures, but even during cooler weather when sunshine through glass can ignite fires, both indoors and outdoors.

“Mirrors, glassware and glass bottles also pose a risk if they channel or magnetise the sun’s rays.”