Most people don't consider the candles they burn in their homes “hostile fires”. Unfortunately, all it takes is something as simple as a slight breeze through an open window to turn an aromatic candle into a raging fire.
Candles are typically considered “friendly fires” because they remain within their intended confines. But if that fire spreads beyond both its confines and your control, you and your family, not to mention your home and possessions, are at risk.
According to the National Fire Protection Association's 2003 report “Candle Fires in U.S. Homes and Other Occupancies”, home candle fires jumped 20% from 1998-1999, hitting a 20-year high of 15,040 fires, 102 deaths, 1,473 injuries, and an estimated $278 million in direct property damage. In contrast, in 1990, there were only 5,460 home fires attributable to candles.
Candle fires are more likely to occur around the holidays when people tend to use more candles. Holiday decorations are often located near burning candles. Candle fires peak on Christmas Day, followed by New Years Eve and Christmas Eve.
What are we doing wrong? Always remember that a candle is an open flame. It may be a small flame, but it's still very dangerous. In four out of ten fires, candles were left unattended, abandoned, or inadequately controlled. In one in four fires, something that catches fire easily (holiday decorations, for example) was left too close to the flame.
Here are some fire safety tips to remember when using candles:
- Extinguish all candles when leaving the room or going to bed.
- Keep candles one foot away from anything that can ignite. This means at least one foot above the candle as well.
- Place candles in a sturdy holder on a stable surface that won't tip over.
- Keep candles out of reach of children and pets.
- Use extreme caution if you carry a lit candle. Hold it well away from clothing and anything combustible as you walk along.