According to the National Fire Protection Association, an estimated 18,000 home fires started by candles were reported to public fire departments in 2002. This is important to note since almost two-thirds of students in the United States live off-campus in homes and apartments.
According to a 2001 pilot study of candle fires by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, most candle fires were caused by:
- Unattended, abandoned or inadequately controlled candles
- Combustible material being too close to the candle flame
- Mattresses, bedding, cabinetry, curtains or drapes catching on fire
The best way to prevent candle-related fires is to discontinue their use in your living space. The second best form of prevention is to follow these candle safety tips:
- Extinguish all candles before leaving your house, going into another room, leaving the room or when going to sleep. For this reason, keep candles out of bedrooms.
- Keep candles away from items that can catch fire such as clothing, books, paper, curtains, Christmas trees, decorations or anything else flammable.
- Make sure candles are placed on a stable piece of furniture in sturdy holders that won’t tip over. Candles should fit in the holders securely and holders should be made from material that can’t burn.
- Use flashlights for temporary lighting in power outages, not candles. Keep plenty of fresh batteries on hand during thunderstorm seasons.
- Make sure the candleholder is big enough to collect dripping wax.
- Don’t place lit candles in windows, where blinds or curtains can close over them.
- Keep candles and all open flames away from flammable liquids.
- When purchasing or using candles, consider what would happen if the candle burned low. Could it burn the candleholder or decorative material nearby?
- Extinguish taper and pillar candles when they get within two inches of the holder or decorative material. Votives and container candles should be extinguished before the last one-half of an inch of wax starts to melt.
- Avoid candles with combustible items embedded in them.
- Keep candles a minimum of one foot in all directions from flammable and combustible items such as curtains or bedding. Make sure curtains cannot be blown over the candle by wind.
- Trim wicks prior to each use. Candlewicks should be trimmed to within one-fourth of an inch from the top of the candle.
- Place burning candles away from drafts and vents.
- Avoid burning candles for more than four hours at a time.
- Avoid walking while holding a burning candle. Do not move a glass container when the wax is liquid.
- Secure candles in holders made of glass, ceramic, metal or other noncombustible material.
Information and safety tips courtesy of State Farm, the United States Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association.