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Candles, incense and oil burners are one of the biggest causes of fire within homes. Candle fires account for 3% of house fires and 6% of fire injuries in England. A single spark can ignite and spread faster than you think.

How do candle fires start?

  • Candle fires often start when people do not pay enough attention to the candle.
  • The flame can get too big for several reasons. There could be too many wicks, contamination in the wax or extra decorations such as cinnamon sticks and pine cones.
  • Candles can overheat the surface a candle is placed on, starting a fire.
  • The flame can catch onto flammable materials such as curtains.
  • Heated candle wax can vaporize and become combustible. The flame of the candle can then ignite the vapour and start a fire.

What can increase the risk of fires?

  • Fragrances: fires are more likely with high fragrance content. Even Low flash point fragrances will also increase the likelihood of a fire.
  • Secondary ignitions: Contaminates in the wax pool can act as secondary wicks, increasing the risk of fire.
  • Containers: Candle fires can occur when the flame reaches the wax pool at the bottom of a candle.
  • Multi-wick container candles: Using too many wicks or too large a wick in a candle increases the risk of a candle fire.
  • Inadequate candle holders: Sometimes a candle fire, particularly tealights, can occur because the holder. The candle holder may be unsafe, flammable or retain too much heat and the whole candle catches fire.

How to reduce the risks of candle fires

  • Always place candles in a proper holder on a heat resistant surface.
  • Keep the flame at a safe distance from flammable materials such as curtains.
  • Keep long hair and clothing away from naked flames.
  • Place candles out of reach of children and pets.
  • Extinguish any candles, incense or oil burner when you go to sleep.
  • Avoid using tea candles without proper holders.
  • If a fire should start, do not use water to extinguish a candle wax fire.
  • Using a snuffer or spoon is safer than blowing a candle to extinguish a flame.
  • Do not place candles under shelves.
  • Trim the wicks to a quarter of an inch before lighting them.

Consider using flameless candles

The best way to reduce the risk of a candle fire breaking out in your home is to use flameless candle. Flameless candles can be LED, battery operated or electronic. Flameless candles can:

  • Be left unattended.
  • Be safely knocked over by pets or children.
  • Be placed near flammable materials such as curtains as there is no flame to catch and start a fire.
  • Be used outdoors.
  • Be recharged or replaced easily.

Flameless candles come in many different shapes and sizes. For instance, flickering, rechargeable, coloured and waterproof versions are available at several retailers.

Always buy electronic goods from reputable retailers.