Blow out the risk of candle fires

  • Winter is a prime time for fires breaking out in homes, with candles frequently being responsible
  • 350 people a year in the UK are injured by candle fires, with nearly 40% of all fires started by candles resulting in death or injury
  • We explore handling candles with care

As the dark nights draw in, candles, incense and oil burners may create a warming ambience in homes across the UK – but they are one of the biggest causes of fires and deaths.

The winter months are the leading time of year for home fires, particularly as candles are increasingly used to celebrate seasonal events such as Halloween, Christmas, Christingle, Hanukkah, Advent and Diwali.

Around 350 people are injured in candle fires in the UK each year and nearly 40% of all fires started by candles result in a death or injury.

With more than 50 fires started by candles every day, the Fire Kills Campaign highlights the importance of taking extra care with candles.

It’s important to remember that a candle is an open flame, which means that it can easily ignite anything that can burn.

Even the smallest candle can be dangerous

We recently handled a fire claim where a flat was smoke damaged as a result of a tenant leaving a lit tea light on top of his television. The tea light produced sufficient heat to ignite the plastic casing of the television.

This caused a small explosion, which woke the tenant in the early hours of the morning and possibly saved his life.

The outcome of this incident could have been very different, particularly if the door to the living room had not been closed.

Candles with care – hints and tips

This winter take time to inform anyone in your community who may use candles or oil burners how to handle them with care:

  • Light candles carefully and keep them at least 30cm away from flammable objects such as curtains, furniture, bedding, books or hair
  • Always use a heat resistant holder on a stable surface, which won’t be knocked over – remember tea lights can melt through plastic surfaces like TVs or baths
  • Burn candles in a well-ventilated room, out of draughts, vents or air currents – this will help prevent rapid or uneven burning, soot, and dripping
  • Do not burn several candles close together as it might cause the flame to flare
  • Keep out of reach of children and pets
  • Don’t move candles once they are lit
  • Avoid the use of candles where people may fall asleep
  • Never leave burning candles, incense or oil burners unattended
  • Don’t burn a candle all the way down — put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container
  • Never use a candle if oxygen is used in the home
  • Have flashlights and battery-powered lighting ready to use during a power outage
  • Fit a smoke alarm and test it regularly. A working smoke alarm can buy you valuable time to get out, stay out and call 999

With December a peak time for fires caused by candles, protect your community by reminding them to test their smoke alarms and sharing information on how candles can be used safely.

It is also important to make sure your community know what to do in the event of a fire and practise their escape routes.

You can find more tips about candle safety from the UK Fire Service here.

You can also find out more about fire risk and access helpful guides and insight with our new Fire Risk Resource.