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A LITTLE CAUTION WITH CANDLES CAN HELP PREVENT HOME FIRES

May 9, 2011

Candles are not typically a springtime problem.  Most candle use is between Halloween and Easter.  In fact, national statistics show that December 24 is the number one day of the year for candle fires.  Despite that fact, we were busy last week with a home fire caused by candles.  While candles can be used safely, there are some interesting facts surrounding candle use and fire safety.

  • According to the National Candle Association, candle sales have increased 700% in the last ten years.  So our exposure to these types of fires is only increasing.
  • The U.S. Fire Administration estimates that candles account for 15,600 residential fires annually.
  • Candle fires cause 150 deaths,1270 injuries and $539 million in damage each year
  • The bedroom is the number one location for candle fires to start
  • Chances of a fatal fire appear to increase when candles are used as a light source rather than for decorative purposes
  • The number one candle fire cause is use to close to combustibles
  • The number two candle fire cause is the candle being knocked over

So what can you do to keep a candle from becoming a structure fire?

  • Do not leave candles burning unless an adult is present in the room.
  • Do not use candles while you sleep.
  • Keep candles in stable metal, glass or ceramic containers.
  • Keep lit candles in locations that are inaccessible to children and pets.  We can’t tell you how many times a pet has knocked over a candle.
  • Candles should not be used where there are drafts or air currents (A/C, ceiling fans, windows).  Drafts cause unequal burning, rapid melting, and excessive dripping.
  • Stop using a candle when it gets down to two inches tall (1/2 inch if in a container).
  • Keep a one-foot radius clear space around candles.  No fabric, paper, or any combustible should be within this clear space (this includes curtains, bedding, newspaper, etc.).  Ensure you have enough clear space above a candle too.
  • Avoid burning a candle for more than four hours
  • Don’t move a lighted candle.  Put it out, then move it, then re-light it.
  • Never move a candle with a liquid wax pool.  Let it cool first and then move it.
  • Keep wicks trimmed to 1/4” or less.  Long wicks create tall flames that can burn in irregular patterns.
  • Be cautious with fragrances in gel candles or around any candles.  DO NOT add your own fragrance.  Many fragrances are highly flammable and are not compatible with gel candles.
  • Some candles have been recalled due to fire safety concerns.  You can check on recalls at www.cpsc.gov

Typically our investigations of candle fires yield multiple violations of the above list.  So any level of increased vigilance regarding candles is helpful.  If you’ve got questions, post them here, give us a call at 466-4602, or e-mail our Prevention Division at dbleeker@scfd9.org.

Sources:
U.S. Fire Administration – http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/citizens/home_fire_prev/candle.shtm

National Candle Association – http://www.candles.org/safety_candles.html

State Farm Insurance – http://www.statefarm.com/learning/be_safe/home/learning_besafe_athm_candles.asp

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