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Candle Safety

Why You Should Use Care When Burning Candles


Updated January 23, 2014

Candles are pretty. Candles smell good. Candles are romantic.

Candles can also be deadly.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that candles were responsible for an estimated 18,000 home fires in 2002, more than triple the number of home fires caused by candles in 1990. 130 people were killed in 2002 - ten times as many were injured. Candle-related fires caused an estimated 333 million in property damage in 2002.

According to the NFPA, twice the average monthly number of candle fires occurs in December. Christmas Day brings the most candle fires of the whole year; Christmas Eve and New Year's Day tie for second place. Half were caused by leaving candles unattended, and 5% came from someone (usually kids) playing with candles.

The NFPA reports that 40% of all candle fires happen in the bedroom and account for 30% of the deaths. Indeed, falling asleep was indicated in a quarter of all candle fire deaths.

Candle Alternatives

The biggest tip for candle safety is not to burn them at all. There are impressively realistic flameless wax candles readily available - many are even scented. Click the button below to see a selection.

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Candle Safety Tips

Candle safety starts with general fire safety. Check the battery in your smoke alarms and inspect your fire extinguishers to make sure they are all ready to handle an emergency. Make an emergency evacuation plan with your family and practice it. For bedrooms above ground floor, have a fire escape ladder at each window.

I admit that I enjoy candles as much as anyone. My wife and I burn candles in the fireplace - it's safe and very soothing. Follow these safety tips from the NFPA to make burning candles as safe as it is relaxing and romantic.

  • Don't leave candles burning in a room unattended. Extinguish them before leaving or going to sleep.


  • Keep candles away from items that can catch fire. Clothing, books and magazines, or curtains are all remarkably flammable.


  • Use sturdy candle holders that will not tip or burn and are large enough to collect dripping wax.


  • Keep all open flame - including candles - away from flammable liquids.


  • Trim candle wicks to one-quarter inch.


  • Extinguish pillar and taper candles when they get within two inches of the holder.


  • Extinguish votives and container candles before the last half-inch of wax is melted.


  • Do not carry lit candles during power outages - use flashlights instead.


"Candle Safety" Safety in the Home. August 2005. National Fire Protection Association. 14 Nov 2006
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