Mom shares warning after sun reflecting off a mirror burns her son's car seat

One mom is sharing a warning after the sun reflecting off a mirror in her car scorched a hole in her baby son's car seat.

Emily Perna had just arrived at Bible study when she did what moms everywhere do every day: She got out of the car and went to the back seat where her 21-month-old son, Luca, was strapped into his rear-facing car seat.

"I grabbed the diaper bag and put it on my shoulder. Then I saw the craziest thing."

Perna described to she saw what initially looked like dust particles in the air.

"It was like when light comes through a window in your house and you can see dust in the air," she said. "I actually can't believe I noticed it, that's how faint it was at the start."

Car seat mirror fire warning (Courtesy Emily Perna)
Car seat mirror fire warning (Courtesy Emily Perna)

Perna quickly realized she wasn't looking at dust.

"Then it looked like steam," she said. "Very quickly it was getting thicker." She removed Luca from the car immediately.

Perna realized that light reflecting off the car seat mirror was causing the seat to burn, and what she thought was dust was actually smoke. Quickly, she used one free hand —  the other was holding her son —  to remove the mirror from the car.

Car seat mirror fire warning (Courtesy Emily Perna)
Car seat mirror fire warning (Courtesy Emily Perna)

Child safety expert Jen Saxton, Founder & CEO of Tot Squad, says this is the first time in her 15 years of being a Child Passenger Safety Technician that she's ever heard of a car seat mirror starting a fire.

"I think this is an extremely rare situation," she tells She adds that while she likes the convenience of mirrors on car seats, which allow the driver to see the baby in their rear-facing car seat, "they are for convenience only. Many people don't have them."

For newborns, Saxton suggests someone ride in the back seat with the baby.

"After that, do not give food or any choking hazard-sized toys (while a child's in a car seat); and most should be fine without a mirror if they're concerned about this," she says.

Car seat mirror fire warning (Courtesy Emily Perna)
Car seat mirror fire warning (Courtesy Emily Perna) reached out to Nuby, the manufacturer of the mirror, and Graco, the manufacturer of the car seat, but did not receive a response before publication.

Perna tells that while there "was never a flame," she can't help but think about what would have happened had circumstances been different. On that day, she was with her mom, who helped get her older daughter out of the car.

“Normally I’d be getting the two kids out of the car alone and it would have taken much longer to get to Luca,” she said. “In hindsight, I really think he would have been burned” if she hadn’t noticed the smoke and moved him out of the car so quickly, she says.

Perna posted her story on Facebook, where it has been shared 346,000 times since June 12, when it happened. She says she hoped it might help another mom to be cautious. Perna decided to get rid of her mirror and won't get another one for her car.

"It was very scary," she says. "It all happened very, very fast."

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