analysis on home candle fires.
The number of home fires caused by candles has
been soaring in recent years, and jumped a startling
20 percent from 1998 to 1999, the most recent year
for which statistics are available, according to
the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association).
Indeed, 1999 marked a 20-year peak; there were
an estimated 15,040 home candle fires that caused
102 deaths, 1,473 injuries (a 33 percent increase
over the previous year), and $278 million in damage.
In contrast, in 1990, there were 5,460 home fires
attributed to candles.
Candle fires are more common around the holidays,
because more people use candles and decorations are
often near them. Candle fires peak on Christmas day—they
accounted for 10 percent of home fires on Christmas
1999—followed by New Year's Day and Christmas
Eve. Home candle fires are more common in the winter
months; in 1999, there were almost twice as many
home candle fires in December as in an average month.
How does a little flame become so dangerous? Four
out of 10 times, the candles were left unattended,
abandoned or inadequately controlled. One in four
times, something that catches fire easily was left
too close to the flame. Sometimes children play with
the candle. Sometimes someone falls asleep with one
or more candles lit.
Four out of 10 home candle fires start in the bedroom,
and two out of 10 in common rooms, living rooms,
family rooms or dens. The most common item first
ignited by a candle is a mattress or bedding, except
in December when decorations are the most common
- Extinguish all candles when leaving the room
or going to sleep.
- Keep candles away from items that can catch fire
(e.g. clothing, books, paper, curtains, Christmas
trees, flammable decorations).
- Use candle holders that are sturdy, won't tip
over easily, are made from a material that can't
burn and are large enough
to collect dripping wax.
- Don't place lit candles in windows,
where blinds and curtains can close over them.
- Place candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered
surface and do not use candles in places where they could
be knocked over by
children or pets.
- Keep candles and all open flames away from
candle wicks trimmed to one-quarter inch and extinguish
taper and pillar candles when they get to within
two inches of
the holder or decorative material. Votives and containers
should be extinguished before the last half-inch of wax starts
- Avoid candles with items embedded in them.
Candles and Children
- Keep candles up high out of reach of children.
- Never leave
a child unattended in a room with a candle. A child should
not sleep in a room with a lit candle.
- Don't allow children
or teens to have candles in their bedrooms.
- Store candles, matches and lighters up high and
out children's sight and reach, preferably in a
Candles During Power Outages
- Try to avoid carrying a lit candle. Don't use
a lit candle when searching for items in a confined
- Never use a candle
for a light when checking pilot lights or
fueling equipment such as a kerosene heater or lantern.
The flame may ignite the fumes.