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Holiday Candle Safety

December 1, 2011

If you ever have occasion to visit Gonzaga’s Bozarth Retreat Center (here in Fire District 9), you’ll no doubt be impressed at the main staircase.  J. P. Graves originally built what is now known as Bozarth Mansion.  Graves wanted a joyous atmosphere in his house and that staircase was part of the equation.  The Christmas tree was reportedly placed in that entry.  Up on the staircase, above where the tree would have been, there is a removable wood panel that reveals fire hose apparatus for servants to man on Christmas when the candles on the Christmas tree were lit.  The water supply for that system (100,000 gallons) was designed into construction of the home.   The home even had fire hydrants installed out front.  J. P. Graves understood holiday fire safety clear back in 1911.

It’s the holidays in 2011 and it’s time to re-visit candle safety.  National statistics indicate Christmas Eve is the number one day of the year for candle fires.  There are some other interesting things to note about candles and fire in the US.

  • 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 a year
  • The bedroom is the number one location for candle fires
  • The number one candle fire cause is use too close to combustibles
  • The number two candle fire cause is the candle being knocked over

You can use candles safely (just like J. P. Graves and his family did 100 years ago), you just need to remember a few things:

  • 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.
  • Stop using a candle when it gets down to two inches tall (1/2 inch if in a container).
  • 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.
  • Don’t use candles where there are drafts or air currents (furnace ducts, ceiling fans).  Drafts cause unequal burning, rapid melting, and excessive dripping.
  • Keep a one-foot radius of 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.

Typically our investigations of candle fires yield multiple violations of the above list.  Any greater attention that you can apply to your candle use this holiday season will help ensure your house stays standing as long as the Graves’ house has.

If you’ve got questions, post them here, give us a call at 466-4602, or e-mail our Prevention Division at

U.S. Fire Administration –

National Candle Association –

State Farm Insurance –


From → Fire Prevention

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