As Hurricane Matthew descends on the Eastern seaboard, the U.S. candle industry and state fire marshals are advising consumers to take critical safety measures when using candles or other open flames during a power outage.
An estimated 26 percent of fatal candle fires occur during the loss of electrical power. While flashlights and battery-powered lamps often provide a safe source of light during these power outages, candles are frequently utilized as a back-up source of light during lengthy periods.
Nearly 10,000 residential fires are caused each year by the careless or inappropriate use of candles, according to figures from the National Fire Protection Association. The agency found that more than half (58 percent) of home candle fires occurred when some form of combustible material was left or came too close to the candle. Candle fires occur most often in the bedroom, according to the NFPA, falling asleep was a factor in 11 percent percent of the home candle fires and 30 percent of the associated deaths.
Power outages as a result of hurricanes and severe weather cannot be avoided, but accidental candle fires can. The National Candle Association and the National Association of State Fire Marshals recommend the following precautions to keep your family and home safe:
- Pillar candles and container candles are a better choice during a power outage than taper candles. Broader-based candles are less likely to be accidentally knocked over. When possible, candles should be enclosed within glass globes for added protection from burns or fire.
- Place candles on a stable surface in a fire resistant holder that is at least 12 inches away from anything flammable, including upholstered furniture and window drapes. For added safety when the lights go out, a candle in its holder may be placed on a stable, nonflammable surface, such as a metal cookie sheet, frying pan or ceramic dinner plate.
- Avoid moving a burning candle during a power outage if possible. It is easy to trip in the dark or brush against something flammable. Container candles may be too hot to handle, causing you to drop the container, which could start a fire.
Never leave a burning candle unattended. Try to restrict people and candles to one room in the house so the location of family members and candle flames always can be accounted for. Always extinguish candles upon leaving a room.
- Make sure the candles are well out of the reach of children and pets. Young children are especially apt to bump into things when a room is unfamiliarly dark.
- Don’t use candles to search for something in a closet or small confined space. Many items in closets like clothes, papers or boxes are flammable and could accidentally ignite.
- Never fall asleep while candles are burning. Extinguish all candles before going to bed, and never use a candle as a nightlight.
- Extinguish candles safely. Extinguish the candle by cupping your hand behind the candle flame before blowing it out – or, better yet, snuff out the flame with a metal candle snuffer. A spark or ember, if blown from the candle, could ignite combustibles nearby.
Source: National Association of Fire Marshals/National Candle Association
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