To Avoid Holiday Fires, Candle With Care



Lit candles have a magical quality, especially in the winter.  No light shines as warmly and beautifully as a candle held by a caroler or placed in a window on a dark night. Even so, we should never get so caught up in the magic that we forget that candles are open flames that can hurt us and destroy our homes. That’s why the National Fire Prevention Association urges everyone to ‘Candle With Care.’

We’ve come a long way from the days when our ancestors trimmed their trees with lit candles. Nonetheless, holiday fires still cause an average of 3,000 injuries and $900 million in damage each year in the U.S., according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

In December, candles cause half of all home decoration fires, the NFPA says. December also is the peak time for candle fires. It’s no wonder, considering that traditional practices encourage us to light candles in living rooms filled with people, flammable trees, wreaths, decorations, and discarded wrapping paper. Don’t let the chaos of the holidays get out of hand. Ignite happiness and cheer this holiday season (and nothing else) by following these simple safety tips:

  • Keep out of the bedroom: Though customers use 42% of candles purchased in the U.S. in the living room, 35% of candle fires start in the bedroom, according to the National Candle Association. Though some might think candles romantic, they just don’t belong. Mattresses and bedding can be extremely flammable. Combine the flammability of bedroom objects with your penchant for, well, falling asleep there (before blowing out candles), and you have a recipe for disaster. Don’t put yourself at such a risk.
  • Countdown to ignition: Clean the candlewicks you plan to light and trim them down so that they measure about 1/8 of an inch to 1/4 of an inch to help prevent dripping and uneven burning. Before lighting them, also ensure that your candles stand at least 3 inches apart so they don’t melt into one another.
  • Location, location, location:  Keep your candles at least a foot away from anything flammable, including paper, wrapping paper, curtains, upholstered furniture, Christmas trees, clothing, bedding, or carpets. Also refrain from using candles near drafts, vents, ceiling fans, or air currents as they could flare up or emanate soot. Flammable objects such as paper, or curtains could be blown in to the flame and ignite.
  • Go green: Always pick a green tree and water it very well. Otherwise any hazard, be it a candle or holiday lights, could cause it to burst into flames in seconds. If your family uses a fake tree, make sure it’s made of non-flammable materials.
  • Watch it!: The most important rule in candle safety is attentiveness. Check your candle frequently, and don’t let it burn down too far.  Never leave candles unattended; snuff them out before leaving the room or going to sleep. Don’t let your busy holiday schedule edge out safety concerns. Fire risk shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Though candles provide warmth and coziness, they also can literally turn your holiday hopes to ash. Other warm, cozy holiday traditions that can smolder include space heaters, Christmas trees, and fireplace fires. Keep flammable objects at least three feet away from these hazards if you don’t wish for your holiday to go up in smoke. Check your home insurance policy to make sure your limits are high enough to cover your possessions this holiday season. You never know when your holidays will light up.

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