Covéa looks at the increasing number of house fires caused by vanity mirrors


Jamie Kemp, High Net Worth & Commercial Claims Team Manager, Covéa Insurance, has seen an increasing number of house fires caused by vanity mirrors.

Two of the largest high net worth property claims of last year, that totaled a significant amount of money, involved house fires. That’s not surprising in itself, but what made them stand out was the cause. In both cases, the fire resulted from the magnification of the sun’s rays from a vanity mirror situated on a dressing table in front of a bedroom window. These cases were especially sad as they appear to have been easily avoidable.

Since then we’ve received our first mirror fire of 2019. This occurred on 12 April at 4.30pm within an exclusive apartment in London, while our customer was watching a film on television in the lounge with her husband. Once again, it occurred in the afternoon on a not especially hot sunny spring day. Our customer was alerted by the smoke alarm and discovered a fire in the unoccupied en suite bathroom to the guest bedroom. Our customer’s husband bravely attacked the fire emptying two fire extinguishers while waiting for the fire brigade to arrive. The burning pattern clearly evidenced the fire had been contained in the bathroom, travelling up from the sill of the bathroom window, suggesting that the Roman blind had caught alight. The forensic report concluded that the cause of the blaze was due to reflected solar radiation, with no other plausible reason for ignition.

Just 8 days later, we received another claim reported for fire damage. This time it was in a summer house that our customer used in connection with her textile hobby. On this occasion the sun shone through a Velux window and reflected on a magnifying glass lamp used for sewing. The summer house and several antique furniture items were badly damaged by fire and smoke.

And as we were putting together this article, unfortunately we had yet another fire claim reported. This took place on 29th April and early investigations strongly indicate it was caused by sun rays reflecting from a make-up mirror in the customer's dressing room. Sadly the flames spread through the upper rooms, with the roof having been completely destroyed, and there is extensive water and smoke damage throughout the house.

As an insurance business, our purpose is to help get things back to normal for our customers as quickly and painlessly as possible after incidents like these, but it’s a sad reality that lives are inevitably disrupted and people will be inconvenienced for a while whilst repairs are made and replacements found to restore their homes to their former condition.   

Reflecting on these incidents, they were all caused by the reflection of sunlight on magnified glass or mirrors. Our experience indicates that these fires usually occur during the spring months of April and May, when the sun is low in the sky, as we do not seem to have similar claims arising at other times of the year.  We would therefore recommend checking your homes and reminding family and friends to do the same at this time of year, and avoid placing mirrors (or other objects that could reflect the sun) near windows.  This simple precaution will keep you and your home looking good all year round.


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