Candle Fires Present a Burning Problem

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that in 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available, candles caused 15,600 home fires, accounting for 4 percent of all reported home fires that year. These fires resulted in an estimated 150 deaths, 1,270 injuries and direct property losses totaling $539 million.

Most common causes of candle fires:

-50 percent were caused when combustible material was placed too close to a lit candle.

-18 percent were caused when a lit candle was left unattended.

-12 percent were caused when someone fell asleep while a candle was still burning.

NFPA data shows that 38 percent of all reported candle fires started in the bedroom. However, the living room, family room, and den were most often the scene of deaths caused by candle-related fires.

Why is the number of candle-related fires so high? It has grown in direct proportion to the increase in candle usage in this country. The National Candle Association (NCA) estimates U.S. retail sales of candles at approximately $2 billion annually, excluding sales of candle accessories.

To help keep consumers safe while enjoying their candles, the NCA offers the following tips:

  • Keep a burning candle within sight. Extinguish all candles when leaving a room or before going to sleep.
  • Move burning candles away from furniture, drapes, bedding, carpets, books, paper, flammable decorations, etc.
  • Do not place lighted candles where they can be knocked over by children, pets or anyone else.
  • Trim candlewicks to ¼ inch each time before burning.
  • Use a candleholder that is heat resistant, sturdy and large enough to contain any drips or melted wax.
  • Place the candleholder on a stable, heat-resistant surface.
  • Keep the wax pool free of wick trimmings, matches and debris at all times.
  • Don’t burn a candle longer than the manufacturer recommends.
  • Keep burning candles away from drafts, vents, ceiling fans and air currents to prevent rapid, uneven burning, and avoid flame flare-ups.
  • Burn candles in a well-ventilated room.
  • Stop burning a candle when 2 inches of wax remains or ½ inch if in a container.
  • Never touch a burning candle or move a votive or container candle when the wax is liquid.
  • Never use a knife or sharp object to remove wax drippings from a glass holder because it might scratch, weaken, or cause the glass to break upon subsequent use.
  • Use a candlesnuffer to extinguish a candle so hot wax doesn’t splatter.
  • Never extinguish candles with water because it may cause the hot wax to splatter.
  • Use flashlights and other battery-powered lights during a power failure.
  • Make sure a candle is completely extinguished and the wick ember is no longer glowing before leaving the room.
  • Extinguish a candle if it smokes, flickers repeatedly, or the flame becomes too high.
  • Never use a candle as a night-light.

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