The number of home fires caused by candles has soared in recent years, jumping a startling 20 percent between 1998 and 1999, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
According to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Research and Analysis Division, 1999 marked a 20 year high for candle fires in the home. That year, an estimated 15,040 home candle fires caused 102 deaths and $278 Million in property damage. They also resulted in 1,473 injuries, a 33 percent increase over the previous year. In 1990, only 5,460 home fires were attributed to candles.
Home candle fires are more common in the winter. In 1999, there were almost twice as many home candle fires in December as there were in an average month. they peaked on Christmas Day, when they accounted for 10 percent of home fires, followed by New year's Day and Christmas Eve.
In four out of 10 fires, the candles were left unattended, were abandoned, or were inadequately controlled. In one in four fires, a combustible object was left too close to the flame.
Four out of 10 home candle fires start in the bedroom, and two out of 10 begin in common rooms, such as the living room, family room, or den. The most common item first ignited is a mattress or bedding, except in December, when decorations are the most common item first ignited.
USFA Focus on Fire Safety
Candle Safety Tips
Always keep a burning candle within sight. Extinguish all candles when leaving a room or before going to sleep.
Never burn a candle on or near anything that can catch fire. Keep burning candles away from furniture, drapes, bedding, carpets, books, paper, flammable decorations, etc.
Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets. Do not place lighted candles where they can be knocked over by children, pets or anyone else.
Read and carefully follow all manufacturer instructions.
Trim candlewicks to 1/4 inch each time before burning. Long or crooked wicks cause uneven burning and dripping.
Always use a candleholder specifically designed for candle use. The holder should be heat resistant, sturdy and large enough to contain any drips or melted wax. Be sure the candleholder is placed on a stable, heat-resistant surface.
Keep burning candles away from drafts, vents and air currents. This will help prevent prevent rapid, uneven burning, smoking and excessive dripping. Drafts can also blow lightweight curtains or papers into the flame where they could catch fire. Ceiling fans can cause drafts.
Keep the wax pool free of wick trimmings, matches and debris at all times.
Do not burn a candle for longer than the manufacturer recommends.
Always burn candles in a well-ventilated room.
Extinguish the flame if it comes too close to the holder or container. For a margin of safety, discontinue burning a candle when 2 inches of wax remains (1/2inch if in a container). This will also help prevent possible heat damage to the counter/surface and prevent glass containers from cracking or breaking.
Never touch or move a votive or container candle when the wax is liquid.
Extinguish pillar candles if the wax pool approaches the outer edge.
Candles should be placed at least three inches apart from one another. This is to be sure they don’t melt one another, or create their own drafts that will cause the candles to burn improperly.
One of the safest ways to extinguish a candle is to use a candle snuffer, which helps prevent hot wax from spattering.
Do not extinguish candles with water. The water can cause the hot wax to spatter and can cause glass containers to break.
Flashlights and other battery-powered lights are much safer light sources than candles during a power failure.
Never use a candle as light when you go into a closet to look for things.
Never use a candle for light when fueling equipment such as a lantern or kerosene heater.