Romantic movies ought to include a “don’t try this at home” warning. More often than not, they portray a room illuminated by hundreds of candles as the ultimate romantic gesture – when, in fact, flickering candles can pose a serious fire danger.
The statistics don’t lie. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there are 15,260 candle fires per year, at an average of 42 per day. More than 1,200 people sustain candle-related injuries annually. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) reports that candles caused a staggering $438 million in direct property damage from 2006-2010 alone.
You might be wondering, “Hey! What’s really so dangerous about candles? I burn them all the time!” Well, it’s not really the candles themselves that are the major issue – it’s the fact that they are often left unattended, especially next to flammable items.
Tablecloths, curtains, blankets and centerpieces can all go up in flames in an instant. If you’re not there to contain the flames, they’ll quickly spread. The main way to prevent a candle fire in your home is just to be in the room where they are burning!
Even though they say everyone looks better by candlelight, you might want to reconsider how you set the mood this Valentine’s Day. You might find your special someone looks just fine by lamp light.
Still convinced you need to set candles ablaze for an unforgettable Valentine’s Day? Here are a few tips to help ensure that your romantic display ignites your romance, not your home:
- Don’t leave candles unattended. The U.S. Fire Administration has found that 20% of candle fires occurred when a flame was left burning unattended.* Your best defense against a candle fire is to always be present when a candle is burning – and to be careful not to fall asleep while one is lit. Your chance of successfully extinguishing a fire, if one happens to ignite, is much more likely if you are nearby.
- Keep candles away from flammable objects. Don’t light candles near anything upholstered, made of fabric or flammable (i.e. curtains, tablecloths, centerpieces, couches, mattresses, blankets). When items like these catch fire, the conflagration is not easily contained.
- Use sturdy candle holders. Keep your candles in flame-retardant holders specifically designed for candles that are large enough to contain wax drippings. Metal, glass and ceramic are the best options; avoid flimsy materials like plastic. Be sure that your holders are stable and don’t easily tip.
- Burn candles out of the reach of animals and children. If a candle accidentally gets knocked over, it can easily spark a fire. Keep that from happening by burning candles on a reasonably high surface.
- Limit the number of candles you burn at one time. The more candles you have burning, the more chances something can go awry. Research shows that the majority of candle fire fatalities occur when candles are being used as a primary light source.*
- Keep wicks trimmed and know when to pitch. The National Candle Association says candle wicks should always be a quarter of an inch in height. You should throw away most types of candles when they have burned down to two inches from their holder, and container candles should be pitched when half inch of wax is left.
- Be sure your smoke alarms are working. Didn’t get that alarm battery changed at Daylight Savings time? There’s no better time than the present. Smoke alarms can help save your life and your home if there’s a fire. Bonus: This tip will be beneficial long after Valentine’s Day!
- Opt for the flickering, battery-powered variety. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Battery-powered candles are designed to provide the same ambiance as their waxy forerunner. The greatest part? Your house won’t smell like smoke when you’re finished with them, and they can be reused for years!
Don’t let a candle fire extinguish your plans for a romantic Valentine’s Day. Spark the flames of desire with a candle alternative, or basic safety precautions, and watch the sparks fly with your Valentine.