All too often, fatal fires caused by candles make headlines. In Massachusetts not long ago, two children died after a candle ignited a plastic bathtub. In 2001, home candle fires killed 190 people and caused more than a quarter billion dollars in property damage in the U.S., according to the latest data from the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). That data also shows that candles started more reported home fires in 2001 than at any point since 1980, the first year of available data.
Used safely, candles can fill our homes with fragrance and create a calming and welcome mood. But what you may not realize is how easily a fire can start when a candle is left unattended or left burning while someone sleeps.
Why are we seeing so many candle fires? Well, for one thing, the popularity of candles is soaring. Americans are buying $2 billion worth of candles every year, and you can now find candles in 7 out of 10 households across the country. A typical manufacturer offers between 1,000 and 2,000 specific varieties of candles!
The most important thing to remember here, is that you can make sure candles are used safely in your home. If you use candles, follow this safety advice:
- Place candles on stable furniture, in sturdy holders that will catch dripping wax.
- Never leave a candle unattended.
- If the power goes out, use flashlights for illumination, not candles.
- Keep candles away from all things that can catch fire.
- Place candles on higher furniture, where they won't be knocked over by children or pets.
- Never place lit candles in windows, where they could ignite blinds or curtains.
- Don't allow children or teens to have candles in their bedrooms.
- Ask questions about the candles and candle-holders you buy. There are new standards that major suppliers will follow, to make sure the candles and candle-holders won't break, tip over, or otherwise malfunction in ordinary use.
Extinguish candles carefully, using a long-handled candle snuffer or a soft, directed breath. Be careful not to splatter wax when extinguishing.
Our department is joining forces with NFPA during Fire Prevention Week -- "Use Candles With Care - When you go out, blow out!" Oct. 9-15, 2005 -- to raise awareness of important causes of home fires and the steps people can take to avoid them. Candle safety is one of our top fire safety priorities here in Brazil, during Fire Prevention Week and all year long.
If you use candles in your home, please "candle with care."