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Christmas Candle Safety

November 29, 2012

Thanksgiving is over and despite the current lack of snow, everyone is gearing up for Christmas. So what do you need to know to be fire safe for Christmas?  Well there are four things we see a lot of at Christmas so we’ll take them a week at a time.

The first is candles.

The first device to approximate a candle was invented by the Egyptians who soaked reeds in tallow and burned that for light.  The Romans created the first real candle using a wick that burned tallow.  The problem with tallow (animal fat) was the odor and the smoke generated.  In the Middle Ages beeswax was found to burn clean and odorless, but only the rich could afford beeswax candles.  Colonial women in America found that wax obtained from bayberries emitted a pleasing scent but the work required was long and tedious.  The 18th century whaling industry gave us whale oil candles that were odor free and did not melt as easily in warm climates.  In 1834, a mechanical means of pressing candles out of whale oil wax was developed that made them easier to produce.  In 1850 paraffin (a byproduct of the oil industry) was found to be an even better candle material as it burned clean, left no scent, was cheap to make, and easy to store.  In 1879, Edison’s light bulb put a damper in the candle industry, but we still use a lot of candles around the holidays.

Candles can be used safely.  Here are a few tips to ensure your candle doesn’t burn the house down.

  • Don’t leave candles burning unless an adult is present in the room.
  • Don’t 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 (furnace ducts, ceiling fans).  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 of clear space around and above candles.  No fabric, paper, or any combustible should be within this clear space (curtains, bedding, newspaper, etc).
  • 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

If you’ve got questions about candle safety, or any fire safety topic, post them here, give us a call at 466-4602, or e-mail me at



From → Fire Prevention

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