Editorial: ’Tis the season for candle danger

Thursday, December 07, 2017

It’s the era of solar panels, wind turbines and light emitting diodes, or LEDs, that banish darkness for a fraction of the cost of old-fashioned light bulbs, but Americans still spend more than $3 billion a year on candles.

There’s a primal beauty to a burning candle, elegance and romance to dinner by candlelight, a balm for the senses in the sweet smell of burning beeswax scented with the essence of flowers or spices. There is also danger.

Burning candles are blamed, on average, for more than 15,000 house fires per year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The majority of them, and the majority of deaths attributed to fires, occur in December between the hours of midnight and dawn, according to the association. That’s right. It’s candle-fire month. Use extreme caution.

Few people, we hope, use real candles to light their windows or adorn their Christmas tree with little open flames, but every candle should be considered a home fire waiting to happen if left unattended. Falling asleep with a candle flickering is indeed pleasant, which is why more than one-third of all candle fires, and a similar number of candle-associated deaths, occur in bedrooms.

The rules about candle use should seem obvious, yet some 25 candle-related fires occur in the nation each day. The majority of them are caused by candles placed too close to a flammable object like curtains, a Christmas tree, newspapers or furniture. Even a safely-placed candle can spark a conflagration if it’s knocked over by a pet or if its container cracks from the heat of a wick allowed to burn down to a pool of wax. Again, the rule is, never leave a room with a candle burning. Snuff it out rather than blow it out, which can propel sparks toward carpets or curtains.

And, to be truly safe, consider replacing traditional candles with a flickering, flameless LED substitute. Sure, they’re fake, but they’re safe.