There’s no denying that a relaxing bath with some scented candles, or a romantic candlelit dinner for two are some of the small luxuries we can still treat ourselves to during lockdown. However, if you’re not careful, what starts out as a romantic night in can quickly turn into the fire brigade being called out because your house is on fire.
Candles certainly create atmosphere, but without due care and attention they can have devastating consequences. Candles are the 5th top cause of house fires in the UK (310 incidents), with cooking appliances (2,340 incidents) topping the list according to ONS statistics. House fires started by candles have decreased significantly over the past four decades, as the common power cuts in the 1980s led to many homeowners relying on candlelight during blackouts. Nowadays, torches are more commonly used when there are power cuts, and electric or LED candles are commonplace in the home as they are much safer and provide the same ambient light.
Most candle fires are caused when the candle is left unattended and falls over, or is too close to soft furnishings. You should always keep lit candles at least 12 inches away from curtains, blinds and other flammable materials. If you have to leave the room, ensure you extinguish any candles before you go – you may think that nipping out to check the post, or make a cup of tea isn’t long enough for a fire to start, but it’s this casual carelessness that allows candles to cause house fires.
Some candles are designed to be burnt to the end and not snuffed out (such as ones for religious observances and some scented candles) and these should be handled with care and left in the sink overnight or when they need to be left unattended. A hurricane lamp glass can be used to keep the flame contained and ensure it can’t fall over, but it is best to leave these types of candles burning somewhere where there are no flammable furnishings, such as the kitchen sink, the shower or the bath.
All other types of candles should be thoroughly snuffed before leaving the room or the building, either with a proper candle snuffer or by being blown out and the wick damped with a moistened fingertip. It is best to wait until the wick has finishes smoking before considering the candle to be out, as on some rare occasions they have been known to re-ignite. When lighting a candle, care should also be taken with the manner of lighting – matches retain heat after they have been blown out, so if they’re dropped into a bin with paper in to soon, it could cause a fire. It is much safer to use a lighter, but whatever method you use, keep the lighter and/or matches away from children.
Children should not be left alone around candles either, as they may be fascinated by the flame and heat and not realise the dangers. Children can also knock over candles quite easily without realising it, so even if your candle is burning on top of a bookshelf and well out of reach, this is still potentially very dangerous. A child could knock into the bookshelf and cause the candle to fall, possibly injuring them and causing a house fire.
We recommend using safer, battery powered alternatives to candles where you can. When lighting a candle is unavoidable, you should treat the candle flame with the same care and attention you would give to a bonfire – keep children out of the way and always supervised whenever there is a naked flame, don’t burn candles near windows (where they could be blown over) or near soft furnishings, and always take care with used matches and lighters.
Finally, check your smoke alarms are working properly – if the worst does happen and a candle causes a fire, at least you will be alerted in time to leave the property and call 999.