Anthropologists have been working for decades to try to figure out why the Russian people have been so attached to vodka for so much of their nearly 2000-year history. But the answer may just have been found in the unexpected venue of a Minnesota liquor store. It turns out that under the right conditions vodka can be an excellent source of heat, crucial in the frosty Siberian tundra. Not just because drinking vodka helps you develop beer-mitts. But because it can start a fire.
Several weeks ago, the vodka display spontaneously caught on fire at Red Lion Liquors in the aptly-named town of Burnsville, just outside Minneapolis, according to the local Fox affiliate. The fire caused serious smoke damage throughout the store and forced it to close for two weeks for repairs.
No match, arsonist or electrical spark started the fire though. When the owner of the store reviewed the security camera footage of the incident, he discovered that sunlight, pouring into the store though the windows, passed through the clear bottles of Karkov Vodka, which acted like magnifying glasses, concentrating the light on the cardboard displays holding them up. The cardboard eventually lit on fire. That fire caused the vodka to heat up enough that the tops flew off -- adding more fuel to the fire. Eventually, flames were as much as 12 feet high.
The store has already reopened, though, so the damage wasn't permanent. But the owner made two changes. He tinted the windows so that such bright sunlight doesn't make it in. And he moved the vodka display away from the windows.