Use candles with care

  • Published
  • By Tim Johnston
  • 30th Civil Engineer Squadron fire inspector
Candles have come a long way since they were used simply to illuminate. They have become such a popular household accessory that there is one for every occasion, mood and fragrance imaginable.

But one thing hasn't changed since the invention of the candle: if used carelessly, candles can cause illness, injury and even death.

The National Fire Protection Association reports that candle fires account for 2.4 percent of all fires, three percent of all fatalities from fires, and six percent of all injuries from fires. Moreover, the National Fire Incident Reporting System estimates that nearly 85 percent of candle fires were caused by consumer misuse.

Recognizing that open flame can be extremely dangerous, it is important to:

· Never leave a burning candle unattended
· Never place a burning candle near something that can catch fire, especially furniture, drapes, bedding, carpets, books, paper, flammable decorations, etc.
· Keep burning candles out of the reach of children or pets

To help minimize the risk of an accident, follow these additional tips for safe candle usage:

· Keep candles away from drafts and vents
· Trim wicks to 1/4 of an inch prior to each use. Long or crooked wicks cause uneven burning and dripping
· Do not burn a candle for longer than the manufacturer recommends (normally no more than four hours at a time)
· Always use containers that have been made for candle usage -- a holder should be heat resistant, sturdy and large enough to contain any drips or melted wax
· Keep candles at least three inches apart so they don't melt one another, or create their own drafts that will cause improper burning
· Discontinue use of a container candle when one-half inch of wax remains
· Keep matches, wick trimmings and foreign objects out of the candle wax
· Never use a candle as light when you go into a closet to look for things
· Extinguish taper or pillar candles when they get within two inches of their holders
· One of the safest ways to extinguish a candle is to use a candle snuffer, which helps prevent hot wax from spattering
· Do not extinguish candles with water, which can cause the hot wax to spatter and can cause glass containers to break

Since 2000, most candles made in the United States do not contain lead wicks, which can spew lead in the air when burned. Be wary of imported candles that could contain lead wicks.

For more information about fire safety, call the Vandenberg Fire Department at 6-4680.