Candles Cause More Home Fires

Nearly 18,000 Fires Started by Candles in 2001

Sept. 21, 2004 -- Candles are increasingly causing U.S. home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

In 2001, candles started an estimated 18,000 fires in American homes. That's 15% more than in 2000 and more than triple the number in 1990.

The damage was severe.

Candle fires killed a record number of people in 2001. An estimated 190 deaths were due to candle fires that year -- 52% more than in 2000.

In addition, candle fires caused nearly 1,450 injuries and $265 million in property losses in 2001.

Overall, the number of home fires is down, but candles increasingly account for residential fires.

Children at Risk

Candles and kids can be a dangerous combination. Six percent of candle fires started when people (usually children) played with a candle.

"Children 5 to 9 faced a risk of death from a home candle fire that was 2.5 times that of the general population," says the NFPA.

Kids younger than 5 had the second highest risk of dying in candle fires.

Lights Out?

Substituting candles for electricity requires watchfulness.

As many as one-third of people killed in candle fires were using them for light because their power had been shut off, the NFPA reports.

Homes may lack power due to temporary service interruptions or billing issues.

How Candle Fires Start

Most candle fires (almost one-third) start when candles are left unattended or are inadequately controlled.

Nearly 25% of candle fires start when combustible material comes too close to the flame.

Four out of 10 candle fires occur in bedrooms. More than one in six starts in common rooms, living rooms, family rooms, or dens.

Holiday Hazards

With the winter holidays just around the corner, autumn is an especially good time to review candle safety.

December has more candle fires than any other month, with almost twice the average number of candle fires.

The worst days for candle fires were Christmas Day, followed by New Year's Day and Christmas Eve, according to the NFPA's 1999-2001 records.

Decorations were the leading item to catch fire in December.

Safety Tips

Enjoy candles safely by following these NFPA guidelines:

  • Extinguish all candles when leaving the room or going to sleep.
  • Keep candles away from things that could catch fire.
  • Place candles on stable furniture in sturdy holders that won't tip over and are big enough to collect dripping wax.
  • Don't place lit candles in windows, where they may ignite blinds or curtains.
  • Place candles only in areas where kids and pets won't knock them over.
  • Extinguish taper and pillar candles when they get within 2 inches of the holder or decorative material.
  • Extinguish votive and filled candles before the last 1/2 inch of wax starts melting.
  • Avoid candles with combustible materials embedded in them, or with holders or decorations that could ignite.
  • Don't let kids or teens have candles in their bedrooms.

Show Sources

SOURCES: National Fire Protection Association, "Home Candle Fires," September 2004. News release, National Fire Protection Association.
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