With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) encourages everyone to use candles safely and avoid ruining a romantic evening. “Candles bring a warm glow to the room that can make an occasion like Valentine’s Day feel even more special, but they do present fire risks and need to be used with caution,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at NFPA.
From 2014 to 2018, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 7,600 home fires started by candles per year. These fires cause an annual average of 81 civilian deaths and 677 civilian injuries, as well as $278 million in property damage. Candles were the third leading cause of bedroom fires and the fourth leading cause of living room fires, as well as the sixth leading cause of home fire injuries. The rate of 89 injuries per 1,000 reported candle fires was three times the rate for all fire causes.
Three out of every five candle fires started when a flammable piece of décor — such as furniture, mattresses, bedding, curtains, home decorations, paper, or clothing — was too close to the lit candle. In 16 percent of home candle fires, the candle was left unattended. Over one-third of candle fires (37 percent) started in the bedroom, while candles are only used in the bedroom by 13 percent of users. Sleep was a factor in 10 percent of home candle fires, 15 percent of candle fire deaths, and 22 percent of candle fire injuries.
Carli recommends using battery-operated candles, which eliminate the risk of candle fires, but if you plan to use real candles on Valentine’s Day, the following are tips from NFPA to do so safely:
- Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn.
- Use candle holders that are sturdy and won’t tip over easily.
- Put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface.
- Blow out all candles before you leave a room or go to bed.
- Never leave children alone in a room with a burning candle.
- Light candles carefully. Keep your hair and any loose clothing away from the flame.
- Don’t burn a candle all the way down — put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container.
- Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep.
NFPA also reminds the public to make sure they have working smoke alarms and to develop and practice an escape plan.
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