FD: Telescope could have magnified sun, igniting house fire

CAREFREE, AZ - Before you set up your telescope for the next star-gazing opportunity, you might want to make sure you have a fire extinguisher nearby.

Fire investigators in Carefree now suspect a house fire Monday night was ignited by the sun reflected and magnified through a telescope.

Colin Williams of the Rural Metro Fire Department told ABC15 a telescope can set fires the same way you use a magnifying glass to fry ants and burn things on a sunny day.

Nevertheless, Williams said the chances of it happening are extremely rare.

"There are some pretty strange things that occur," Williams said at the scene of the fire. "If you think about it, keeping this telescope here 364 days out of the year nothing happens, but if the sun lines up directly into that telescope, and reflects directly into this dry wood; it could have started this fire."

The fire happened in a community near Cave Creek Road and Long Rifle Drive. The homeowners were able to escape safely.

In the back of the house where the fire started, the now burned telescope appears to line up perfectly with where the fire started.

The suspected telescope itself is no ordinary piece of star watching equipment. The owner told ABC15 it was manufactured by Celestron and costs several thousand dollars. The 14" telescope model has very powerful lenses, far superior to that of a magnifying glass.

Firefighters said it was a "million to one" chance the sunlight sparked a fire through the telescope, but Rural/Metro Fire Department said they've seen '"million to one fires" before.

"I saw a cat that actually knocked a telephone book on to a toaster and that started the toaster, which started the kitchen on fire," Williams said sharing his odd fire encounters.

Strangely enough, Rural/Metro said they were called to a fire a few weeks ago that started on top of a building because of sunlight reflecting off of a "solar tube" being installed.

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