For many of those served by the Los Angeles Fire Department, the coming days will be anything but a holiday. Fires caused by candles and carelessness with fire will certainly damage homes, dampen spirits - and sadly, may take lives.
As we enter the peak of the holiday season, the men and women of the LAFD ask you to join them in putting a stop to these needless and often tragic blazes.
Is there a really a problem?
Citing statistics for 2006-2010, our friends at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report that twelve percent of home candle fires occur in December, 1.5 times the monthly average.
Why is the LAFD sharing this message now?
Many Americans consider candles as benign holiday gifts, or use them with little thought of safety during Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa celebrations. Christmas Day remains the peak day for home candle fires with New Year’s Day and Christmas Eve following close behind.
The danger not always where you think...
Candles cause 3% of all home fires in our country and an alarming 1 out of every 20 home fire deaths. More than one-third of home candle fires start in bedrooms, where 42% of candle associated deaths and nearly half of associated injuries occur.
The danger is real - and far from seasonal!
Annually, an estimated 11,640 home structure fires started by candles are reported to Fire Departments in the United States. These fires result in approximately 126 civilian deaths, 953 civilian injuries and a direct property loss of $438 million.
Yes, the impact of candles can be staggering.
According to the NFPA:
- More than half of all candle fires start when something that could burn, such as furniture, mattresses or bedding, curtains or decorations, were too close to the candle.
- In nearly one-fifth of such fires, candles were left unattended or abandoned.
- An alarming number of fires are started by people (often children) playing with candles.
- 11% of candle fires start after the candle user falls asleep - a factor that was prevalent in 43% of home candle fire deaths!
The Los Angeles Fire Department suggests you consider safe alternatives to candles. If candles must be used:
- Extinguish all candles when leaving a room or going to sleep.
- Keep candles at least 12" away from any flammable items, including areas cluttered with holiday decorations - and especially distant from children and pets.
- Don’t burn a candle all the way down — put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container.
- Use sturdy non-combustible candle holders that won't tip over easily and are large enough to collect dripping wax.
- Don't place lit candles in or near windows, blinds and curtains.
- No one should sleep in a room with a lit candle.
- Store candles, matches and lighters up high and out of children's sight and reach, preferably in a locked cabinet.
- Never use a candle if medical oxygen is used in the home.
- Don't use a lit candle when searching for items in a confined space or checking pilot lights or fueling equipment.
- Have flashlights and battery-powered lighting ready to use during a power outage. Never use candles for emergency lighting.
- And finally, please consider gifts other than candles this holiday season!
Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department