Candles are Beautiful, But Dangerous!

In the last decade, candles have made a real comeback as aesthetically pleasing decorations, subdued mood lighting and as air fresheners for all rooms of the home. During adult public fire education classes, one of the points that surprises most people is how dangerous candles really are. With their increase in popularity, candles have advanced to the third most common cause of residential structure fires in the nation. Why are these little bundles of happiness so dangerous? Well, just like we teach all new firefighters, all big fires start with a tiny, little flame and that’s just what a candle is.

In most situations, problems with candles are due to human error. The most common candle error is to use improper candle holders or to fail to use them altogether. Cheap, thin glass bases, paper plates or any other type of flammable candle holder is going to cause a problem. Once the candle burns all the way down, that tiny, little flame comes in contact with its flammable holder and that’s when we get a call. If there’s no holder and that tiny, little flame comes in contact with a table, night stand, or window sill, again, you have a problem.

Another common error is candle placement. Even when using a proper holder, if you place the candle too close to a flammable object, you once again will be reminded that the tiny, little flame is indeed still fire. In my thirty years in the fire service, I have personally seen fires started when a candle was placed too close to a television, a stereo speaker, a kitchen cabinet, window blinds, a bookshelf, a headboard, a lamp shade, a nightstand and these are just the ones I can remember at this moment.

Pets are also a problem when it comes to candles. Cats are attracted to the flickering motion and light and anything a cat’s attracted to, they end up playing with. And for you dog lovers out there, dogs can be just as bad. They won’t play with lit candles, but their powerful wagging tails can knock them across a room. Growing up, my parents had two labs and their tails could sweep clean any nightstand or coffee table!

As with anything that is dangerous, make use of candles wisely. Use proper holders, don’t place them near anything flammable and, just like cooking, don’t ever leave them unattended, even for a minute. Once you forget about them, these tiny, little flames will have a chance to give you an ugly reminder of how big fires start.

Article from Jollyville Volunteer Fire Department (