For many people throughout the country, the coming weeks 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 Payson Fire Department ask you to join them in putting a stop to these needless and all-too-often tragic blazes.
Is there really a problem?
Our friends at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report that home candle fires have more than tripled since the low of 5,500 in 1990.
Why is the Payson Fire Department so adamant about sharing this message now?
Nationwide, December has almost twice the number of home candle fires as an average month. Christmas Day was the peak day of the year for home candle fires in 1999 through 2002. New Year's Day and Christmas Eve tied for second during the same four-year period.
Candle fires now account for an estimated 5 percent of all reported home fires in our country. Two-fifths (40 percent) of these fires started in the bedroom, resulting in 30 percent of the associated civilian deaths.
The danger is far from seasonal, though.
Throughout 2002, an estimated 18,000 home fires started by candles were reported to public fire departments. These fires resulted in an estimated 130 civilian deaths, 1,350 civilian injuries and an estimated direct property loss of $333 million.
The human impact of home candle fires is truly alarming.
According to the NFPA in 2002:
- 50 percent of home candle fires occurred when some form of combustible material was left or came too close to the candle;
- 18 percent of these fires occurred after candles were left unattended, abandoned or inadequately controlled;
- 23 percent took place when some form of combustible material came too close to the candle;
- 5 percent were started by people (usually children) playing with the candle;
- 12 percent started after the candle user fell asleep -- a factor that was prevalent in 25 percent of home candle fire deaths.
The Payson Fire Department, therefore, reminds you to:
Extinguish all candles when leaving the room or going to sleep.
Keep candles away from items that can catch fire (e.g. clothing, books, paper, curtains, Christmas trees, flammable decorations).
Use candleholders that are sturdy, won't tip over easily, are made from a material that can't burn and are large enough to collect dripping wax.
Don't place lighted candles in windows, where blinds and curtains can close over them.
Place candleholders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface and do not use candles in places where they could be knocked over by children or pets.
Keep candles and all open flames away from flammable liquids.
Keep candlewicks trimmed to one-quarter inch and extinguish taper and pillar candles when they get to within two inches of the holder or decorative material. Votive candles should be extinguished before the last half-inch of wax starts to melt.
Avoid candles with combustible items embedded in them.
Keep candles up high out of reach of children.
Never leave a child unattended in a room with a candle. A child should not sleep in a room with a lighted candle.
Don't allow children or teens to have candles in their bedrooms.
Store candles, matches and lighters up high and out of children's sight and reach, preferably in a locked cabinet.
Avoid carrying a lighted candle during a power outage. Don't use a lighted candle when searching for items in a confined space.
Never use a candle for a light when checking pilot lights or fueling equipment such as a kerosene heater or lantern. The flame may ignite the fumes.
And finally, please consider gifts other than candles this holiday season.
On behalf of all of us at the Payson Fire Department, please accept our warmest wishes for a safe and joyous holiday season!