How to safely use candles in your home during the holiday season and all year long. Facts and figures support the need to use caution when burning candles in the home. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day are statistically the most frequent days for candle-caused fires
Candles have become a popular gift and decorator accessory in recent decades and while they can create a festive atmosphere during the holidays, candles can also greatly increase the chance of property damage, injury or death from fire as depicted in the following estimates.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that the number of residential fires caused by candles rose from 6,800 in 1990 to 23,400 in 2001. Though the number of fires has currently decreased to over 15,000 residential fires, the incidents are still more than double the number that occurred in 1990.
Based on National Fire Protection Association data, here is a list of where candle fires most often occur:
Where Candle Fires Start Bedroom 38%
Living/Family Room/Den 15%
Items First Ignited Mattresses or Bedding 11%
(Source: Home Candle Fires , Fire Analysis and Research Division, National Fire Protection Association, September 2007. Based on 2002-2005 annual averages)
Most candle-related fires are due to the candles being left unattended or misuse.
Paraffin is the most commonly used candle wax today. Beeswax, soy wax, palm wax, gels, and synthetic waxes are also used in candle-making for the U.S. market, as are blends of waxes. Waxes burn with a yellow flame due to the presence of carbon. There is no such thing as a soot-free candles. All organic compounds when burned will emit some carbon due to incomplete combustion. Soot production is primarily a factor of wick length and flame disturbance. (Source: www.candles.org )
Candle Fire Facts
The NFPA reports some interesting trends regarding candle fires during a five year period from 2000 to 2004, including:
• 54% of home candle fires occurred when some form of combustible material was left or came too close to a candle. In 20% of those cases, the candle was unattended.
• 4% of fires were started by people (usually children) playing with candles.
• Falling asleep was a factor in 12% of home candle fires and 25% of the associated deaths.
• 38% of home candle fires started in the bed room, resulting in 35% of the associated deaths.
• December (14%) had almost twice the number of home candle fires of an average month (8%).
• Christmas Day was the peak day of the year for home candle fires. Christmas Eve ranked second and New Year’s Day was third.
Candles and Fire Safety
A study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) suggests that 85 percent of candle fires could be avoided if consumers followed three basic safety rules:
• Never leave a burning candle unattended.
• Never burn a candle on or near anything that might catch fire.
• Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets.
Also remember to keep candles, lighters and matches out of the reach of children. If there is a power outage use flashlights and never carry a lit candle.
The CPSC has recalled over 100 products since 1990 involving candles and candle accessories. Most of the recalls are due to fire hazards. Information concerning product recalls is available at www.cpsc.gov .
Before lighting –
- Trim the wick to ¼ inch each time before burning.
- Always use a candleholder specifically designed for candle use. It should be heat resistant, sturdy, and large enough to contain any drips or melted wax.
- Burn candles in a well-ventilated room, but free from drafts or strong air currents.
- Place the candleholder on a stable, heat-resistant surface.
- Follow the manufacturer's recommendations on burn time and proper use.
While burning –
- Never touch or move a burning candle or when the wax is liquefied.
- Don't burn a candle all the way down. Stop burning a candle when 2 inches of wax remains or 1/2 inch if it is in a container.
- Extinguish a candle if the flame becomes too high or flickers repeatedly. Let the candle cool, trim the wick, and check for unwanted drafts before re-lighting.
- Always keep the candle within your sight. If you are going to leave the room, be sure to first blow out all candles.
When extinguishing –
Use a candle snuffer to extinguish a candle. It's the safest way to prevent hot wax from splattering.
Never use water to extinguish a candle. Water can cause the hot wax to splatter and might break a glass container.
Make sure the candle is completely out and the wick ember is no longer glowing before leaving the room.
Don't touch or move the candle until it has completely cooled
Alternatives to Candles
With the increased awareness of fire safety, manufacturers have developed electric candle warmers as a safer alternative to burning a candle. They are similar to crock pots in their operation and use low electric heat to melt candle wax and allow the candle’s scent to circulate in the room. These warmers also eliminate the production of soot which can mar ceilings, walls, floors and damage personal belongings. Candle warmers can be purchased at department and specialty stores and always look for appliances that are Underwriters Laboratory® (UL) listed.
Hopefully these safety tips will not only help you during the holiday season, but all year long too!