Be Careful with Candles

Candles provide festive decor for the holiday season. They are part of worship ceremonies. They can scent the air with mood-enhancing aromas. And if the power goes out, candles may become an alternative to electric lights.

Candle Fires

However, home fires caused by candles are on the rise. Outside the holiday season, candle fires most often start in the bedroom. Scented candles may be used to create a romantic or relaxing environment. Predictably, people fall asleep while the candle continues to burn. All too often, the flame ignites a mattress or bedding. The Canada Safety Council strongly recommends keeping candles out of all bedrooms. In case the power goes out, keep flashlights on hand.

The most common scenario is that the flame ignites something nearby, perhaps when the candle is knocked over or burns too low. If someone can put the fire out immediately, there may only be damage to the surrounding area (which can still be significant). Anyone who likes to use candles should always have a fire extinguisher handy. However, if a fire starts when no one is in the room — or awake — a major disaster is likely.

Precautions

Always put candles on a stable surface away from anything that might make them fall or that could burn. The holder should be non-combustible (believe it or not, some aren’t!), big enough to contain any dripping wax and sturdy enough not to tip. Keep wicks trimmed to 5 to 7 mm (1/4 inch) and stop burning taper and pillar candles within 5 cm (2 inches) of the holder. Use a snuffer to put them out. If you must carry a lighted candle, do so with care. Above all, when candles are burning make sure an attentive adult is in charge.

Are any types of candles more dangerous than others? The Canada Safety Council urges extra caution if you use candles with multiple wicks, because they can produce high flames and intense heat. The Council also warns against candles that have flammable decorations embedded in them or as part of a decorative arrangement. Paper and tree bark, for example, can easily catch fire.

Anyone who likes the special atmosphere and decor of candles can take a few simple, common sense precautions to make the season safer:

  • Place candles away from absolutely anything that could catch fire.
  • Burn them only when a responsible adult is overseeing the flame.
  • Put them out of the reach of drafts, curtains, children and pets.
  • Snuff them out before leaving the room or going to sleep.