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Light magnified by bottles in garbage can started blaze that destroyed 5 homes, fire chief says

Sunlight magnified by glass bottles in an open garbage can ignited paper trash, starting a 500-acre North Texas wildfire that destroyed five homes, fire officials said Thursday.

The July 18 fire on Possum Kingdom Lake's western shore, about 70 miles west of Fort Worth, took eight days to fully contain.

Chief Bonnie Watkins of the Possum Kingdom West Side Volunteer Fire Department found a trash can packed with party trash that included paper goods, food and numerous other glass bottles, according to a department statement Thursday.

Watkins concluded that a wind gust opened the can lid, enabling sunlight magnified by the glass bottles to ignite the paper. The fire built rapidly until it spilled from the can and spread to nearby cedar trees, the statement said.

Rich Johnson, a spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas, a nonprofit insurance industry association, said he'd never heard of such a freakish cause for a wildfire.

"A fire started in a trash can is one thing, but one caused by sunlight magnified by glass bottles? That's a new one," Johnson said.

North Texas has been plagued by numerous explosive wildfires fostered by extreme drought conditions combined with temperatures topping 100 degrees and by wind gusts.

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