Dublin Villager

Smoke Signals

Use of candles has become growing cause of fires

Wednesday December 18, 2013 10:02 AM

Candles have become very popular over the last 10 years.

The industry is a $2 billion industry.

The large variety of shapes, sizes, colors, containers, and fragrances offered have contributed to their popularity and wide use in nearly every room of the house.

Seven out of ten homes in the U.S. use candles throughout the year to decorate, create a desired mood, celebrate, add fragrance, mask odors and generate light.

During 2011, candles in U.S. homes caused an estimated 9,100 reported structure fires, 90 deaths, 870 injuries, and $313 million in estimated property damage, according to the latest estimates from the National Fire Protection Association.

The winter holiday season is a peak time for candle burning as we take part in end-of-year holiday celebrations.

Historically, the number of home candle fires in December increases by more than 50 percent compared to other months of the year.

Start implementing safe habits for candle use throughout the year.

Never underestimate the damage that a small flame can do.

Always remember to:

* Extinguish candles before you leave the room or go to bed.

* Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can catch fire such as flammable decorations, curtains, carpets, books, papers and Christmas trees.

* Burn candles on a heat-resistant surface in a stable, non-flammable container that grips or holds the candle securely, can catch any drips or melted wax, and is not subject to cracking or breaking when heated (tempered).

* Keep wicks trimmed to one-quarter inch.

* Extinguish a candle if it smokes, flickers repeatedly, or the flame becomes too high.

* Extinguish taper and pillar candles when they burn to within two inches of the holder and votive and container candles before the last half inch of wax begins to melt.

* Keep candles away from flammable liquids and never use one to check a pilot light or when fueling equipment such as a kerosene heater or lantern.

* The flame could ignite the fumes into flame.

* Flashlights and other battery-powered lights are much safer light sources than candles during a power failure.

* Always burn candles in a well-ventilated room but away from drafts, vents and air currents to help prevent rapid, uneven burning, smoking, and excessive dripping.

Drafts can also blow lightweight curtains or papers into the flame where they could catch fire.

* Don't allow teens to have candles in their bedrooms. Forty percent of candle fires start in the bedroom.

Washington Township Fire Department Fire Marshal Alan Perkins submitted the Smoke Signals column.