For many of us, candles are a great accompaniment to a relaxing bath, and can create atmospheric lighting at a dinner table. However as well as providing a romantic glow, if not dealt with responsibly, they can also be hazardous in the extreme. Latest statistics from the London Fire brigade show that around 1,300 home fires are caused by candles in the UK – and that around 18 people died as a result of these in 2008. One in three home fire injuries are also due to candles.
Candles are at the centre of many festivities – including birthdays and religious celebrations – so with Christmas just around the corner, it’s a good idea to brush up on basic safety measures that can help prevent any horrible accidents.
Things to watch out for
• It’s important never to leave candles unattended, to be careful about where you place them, and be sure they are in safe containers, preferably special holders designed for candle use.
• Make sure they are not close to curtains, bed clothes, or anything else that is flammable – especially Christmas trees, decorations and wrapping paper around this time of year.
• You should also be aware that young children may be fascinated by flames. Make sure they cannot knock them over or get too close – and likewise, keep an eye on pets.
• Try to make sure you always burn a candle on a heat resistant surface. A holder that is too flimsy could heat up enough to burn a wooden table if the candle burns too low. It would be best to avoid having too many candles or having them too close together – and make sure there are no draughts, along with checking there is adequate ventilation.
• And, of course, the golden rule is always to extinguish candles before you go to bed. Having candles in a bedroom is not a good idea as you might fall asleep while one is still burning – likewise, they should never be used as nightlights.
• Be aware of not using too many candles in a confined space. And if you are using citronella candles in the garden as a defence against mosquitoes, always make sure these are extinguished before coming in.
• If you have a power cut, use a torch rather than a candle to avoid accidents.
Whilst unattended candles are one of the causes of Christmas fires in the UK, there are other potential hazards that you should also look out for:
• Christmas lights and other electrical decorations – always make sure you turn these off before going to bed, and always check that your lights are in good working order.
• Don’t overload sockets – It’s good practice to stick to one plug per socket, and to always switch these off when going to bed or leaving the house.
Finally, check your smoke alarms on a regular basis to make sure they are working properly. It’s advisable to have one on each level of your house.
So enjoy the beauty of candles, but follow the rules for their use. Home insurance can also provide cover if the worst happens and you do have a fire, so you should ensure you have adequate buildings and contents cover.