candle fire safety

During the dark, cold months many people use candles to brighten a room or add an enticing scent. During the holidays in particular, candle use goes up as people look to add a festive flair to their homes. In fact, the top three days for home candle fires between 2007 and 2011 were Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Christmas Eve. Overall, 29 percent of home candle fires occurred in the month of December.

Candle fires fell steadily between 1980 and 1990 as candle sales dwindled. As candles rose in popularity through the 1990s, home candle fires increased and peaked in 2001 at 18,900 fires.

When lighting candles in your home, it is important to understand the risks. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), between 2009 and 2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 9,300 home fires started by candles each year with 25 home candle fires reported daily. These fires caused an average of 86 deaths, 827 fire injuries, and $374 million in direct property damage each year.

Candle fires tend to be more deadly and cause more damage than other causes of home structure fires. On average, candle fires cause 9.2 deaths and 88.9 injuries per thousand fires, along with an average loss of $40,000 per fire. In contrast, home structure fires overall cause 6.9 deaths and 36.1 injuries per thousand reported home fires with an average loss of $19,000 per fire.

More candle home fire statistics from an NFPA study between 2009 and 2013:

  • Candles were the cause of three percent of total reported home fires,
  • three percent of home fire deaths,
  • six percent of home fire injuries,
  • and 5 percent of associated direct property damage.

Candle Safety Tips

Blow out candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Almost 18 percent of home candle fires occurred because lit candles were left unattended or abandoned.

Avoid using candles in your bedroom where you are more likely to fall asleep with a lit candle (the majority of candle fires are started in the bedroom).

Only use sturdy candle holders on a stable, uncluttered surface.

Keep your hair and any loose clothing out of the way when lighting a candle.

Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything flammable. Fifty-six percent of home candle fires begin because the flame leapt to a flammable object such as a nearby curtain.

Never place candles on a Christmas tree or near flammable Christmas decorations.

Don’t burn a candle all the way down, instead keep an eye on it and put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container.

Never use a candle if oxygen is used in the home.

Have flashlights, flameless candles, and battery-powered lighting on-hand to use during a power outage. Never use candles.

Consider using flameless candles instead of regular candles.

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