Candles carry potential for catastrophe |

Candles carry potential for catastrophe

With home candle fires on the rise and December the month when most of them occur, public safety officials are urging residents to make candle safety a priority this holiday season.

In 1998, the latest year for which data is available, candles in homes caused more than 12,500 fires, reaching a 19-year high, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Those fires resulted in 155 deaths, 1,100 injuries and $176.1 million in direct property damage, according to the association.

The association reports twice as many candle fires occur in December than any other time of year. The leading cause is unattended, abandoned or inadequately controlled candles.

“Candle safety is important year-round, but becomes especially important during the holidays when the warm, cozy glow of candles is a tradition for many,” said Larry Williams, safety education specialist for Country Insurance and Financial Services. “A raging inferno caused by candle carelessness can do more than merely dampen the holiday spirit.”

To prevent candle fires:

n Extinguish all candles when leaving the room or going to sleep.

n Keep candles away from items that can catch fire, such as clothing, books, paper, curtains, Christmas trees, flammable decorations.

n Use sturdy candle holders that won’t tip over easily and are large enough to collect dripping wax.

n Place candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface. Do not place candles where they can be knocked over by children or pets, or near blinds and curtains that can close over them.

n Keep candlewicks trimmed to one-quarter inch and extinguish taper and pillar candles when they burn within two inches of the holder.

n Avoid candles embedded with combustible items such as leaves, flowers and twigs.

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