Candles are a great way to liven up a room by adding a fresh scent or warm light. Unfortunately, they can also create devastation if not used properly. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), improperly used candles caused an estimated 9,300 home structure fires between 2009 and 2013. Understanding the dangers of using candles and knowing the safest ways to use them can help prevent a similar tragedy in your home.
A Closer Look at Candle Fires
Overall, candle fires are not as common or as destructive as those caused by kitchen incidents or heaters, but they still account for 3 percent of reported home fires and home deaths according to the NFPA. In fact, NPFA says one third of all candle fires start in the bedroom and are often the result of a person falling asleep while a candle is burning. More than half of these candle related home fires started when a candle was placed too close to combustible material, such as a curtain or drape. Some of the most common combustible materials ignited by candles resulting in house fires are:
- Mattresses or bedding
- Curtains or blinds
- Magazines, papers or seasonal decorations
Winter holidays are the most likely time of year for a candle fire, with New Year’s Day, Christmas Day, and Christmas Eve the top three days home candle fires occur says NPFA.
Stop Candle Fires Before They Start
Burning a candle is an enjoyable, yet idle activity; it’s easy to forget that the candle is lit. Candle fires can quickly grow out of control so it’s important to take basic safety precautions and follow these candle safety tips:
- Place candles on stable furniture where children and pets cannot knock them over.
- Never fall asleep with a candle burning.
- Trim wicks to 1/4 inch before lighting and use noncombustible holders to catch dripping wax.
- Extinguish candles when leaving a room or when a candle burns within 2 inches of its holder.
- Keep candles away from holiday decorations, paper, books, curtains, blinds, flammable liquids, clothing, bedding, lampshades and other combustibles.
- Keep clothing and hair away from the open flame when lighting a candle.
- Never use candles when oxygen sources like compressed air tanks are nearby.
Fire Safety When the Lights Go Out
Burning candles as a light source when the electricity goes out may seem like a good idea, but it can have dangerous consequences. Choose a battery-powered flashlight instead. If you must use a candle, take the necessary precautions to prevent a fire from starting:
- Don’t walk while carrying a lit candle.
- Always supervise children when candles are near.
- Never use a candle to check pilot lights of gas appliances or to provide light when fueling equipment.
By taking these precautions, you can enjoy burning your candles and prevent a candle related fire from starting in your home.
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