BURNSVILLE, Minn. (KMSP) -
Burnsville fire officials say they've never heard of so-called firewater could become a fire starter without the aid of a match or spark, but that's exactly what happened when vodka bottles magnified sunlight and started a fire inside Red Lion Liquors.
The store has been in Burnsville since 1978, and it's occupied its current building for the past nine years. They have bulletproof glass to stop burglars and vandals from breaking in, but that couldn't' protect them from a problem that started inside.
"It's the unexpected things that can kind of sucker punch you," said manager Dave Hautman.
Usually, the only kind of sun the staff at Red Lion Liquors have to worry about is a type of Spanish beer, but one of hottest sellers on the floor got a little too toasty when the store was closed last Sunday.
Surveillance cameras captured the slow-starting fire, which began with smoke billowing from a display of vodka bottles. Soon, a small paper sign on top simply melts away.
Eventually, the heat got so intense that the tops popped off of the vodka bottles, spraying streams of steaming liquor. In the end, the display caught fire, sending some flames shooting up to 12 feet in the air.
"We have shades on the windows. We'll pull them down on sunny days to protect the wine on the shelves, never thinking it would ever start a fire," Hautman said.
It turns out that sunlight coming through the window turned the vodka bottles into a magnifying glass, slowly starting the cardboard on fire while a ceiling fan above fanned the flames.
"It was just this freak thing," Hautman said.
Even the Burnsville fire marshal had never seen anything like it.
"It was entertaining," Hautman recalled. "The firefighters were standing next to me like they were watching a new video game. They were going, 'This is so cool!'"
After being closed for nearly two weeks, the store re-opened on Friday morning. Hautman said the store mostly suffered smoke damage and only a little water damage from the sprinklers and fire response, but they've
tinted the windows to prevent the same thing from happening again -- and they'll be a bit more careful about where they place the displays.Source