Home Fire Study: Candles Put Kids at Risk

Half of People Killed by Candle Fires Are Under Age 20

Aug. 31, 2005 - A new study shows half of all deaths from fires started by candles in U.S. homes are in people under the age of 20. Children aged 5 and younger face the highest risk.

The study by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports on findings from 2002.

The number of candle fires in 2002 was the first time since 1995 that there was not reported a new high. The reported number of home fires from candles stabilized in 2001-2002 after a 15% increase seen in 2000-2001.

During 2002, the study found, candle fires in U.S. homes (including one- and two-family dwellings, apartments, and manufactured housing) were responsible for 130 civilian deaths.

Candles also caused:

  • 18,000 (reported) home fires between 2001-2002
  • 1,350 civilian injuries
  • $333 million in estimated direct property damage

One in four fatal home candle fires occurred in homes where the power had been shut off. Seven percent occurred during temporary power outages.

Two out of every five home fires from candles were reported to have been started in bedrooms and were responsible for 30% of deaths.

December Is a Dangerous Month

Fourteen percent of home fires from candles occurred in the month of December, when people were more likely to incorporate candles into their holiday decorations. The report states that this was nearly twice that seen in other months of the year.

Seventeen percent of home candle fires started in common rooms, living rooms, family rooms, or dens; those resulted in 36% of the deaths.

Falling asleep was a factor in only 12% of the home candles fires and accounted for a quarter of deaths.

Half of all fires occurred because a combustible material was left too close to the candle.

Five percent were reported to have been caused by playing with candles.

In most cases, candle fires are caused by children under 5 and adults 65 or over. At the same time, although kids under 5 faced the highest risk of death, older adults were at only a slightly higher risk than the general population, the study found.

Tips to Prevent Candle Fires

The NFPA gives a number of safety measures homeowners can take to prevent the threat of home candle fires. They include:

  • Extinguish all candles when leaving the room or going to sleep.
  • Keep candles away from items that can catch fire, such as clothing, books, and curtains.
  • Use candle holders that are sturdy, won't tip over easily, are made from a material that cannot burn, and are large enough to collect dripping wax.
  • Keep candles and all open flames away from flammable liquids.
  • Keep candle wicks trimmed to one-quarter inch and extinguish taper and pillar candles when they get to within 2 inches of the holder. Extinguish votives and containers before the last half-inch of wax starts to melt.
  • During power outages, avoid carrying a lit candle. Use flashlights instead.