Help snuff out home candle fire danger, firefighters urge

Oxfordshire County Council's Fire and Rescue Service believe that two people's lives were saved by a smoke alarm activated in a property in Milton near Bloxham on December 21 after a couple fell asleep having left a lit candle on top of a television which then caused a blaze.

A house fire was started in Henley on Christmas Eve by a candle on a fireplace and residents at a Middle Barton property were awoken on Boxing Day to the smell of smoke which firefighters believe was caused by a candle which inadvertently had been left alight overnight.

Stuart Garner, the Fire and Rescue Service's Home and Community Safety Manager, said: "Candles are a common sight in homes, either scenting a room or giving an atmospheric glow to cold winter nights.

"As we have seen recently, they are a real fire risk if they are not managed properly and it is very important that candles are not just treated as a decorative feature.

"One of the most important measures to take is having a working smoke alarm - the lives of the Milton couple were undoubtedly saved by others in the property being alerted to the blaze by the smoke alarm.

"It is essential that candles are extinguished before people leave a room or go to sleep and that they are not lit near to flammable materials like curtains, furniture and bedding. People should not move a lit candle and should extinguish them using a snuffer or a spoon."

Have a torch at hand

Mr Garner recommends for people to have a battery-operated torch to hand at home in case of further weather-related power outages to help avoid impromptu use of candles.

"The recent stormy weather has caused electricity cuts which has left people in the dark," he said. "People may think that lighting a candle might be a good idea during power outages, but it is far safer to use a torch as doing so eradicates the fire risk that candles bring.

"People should take extra special care if they have to use a candle and they should never ever leave them unattended. It is also essential that they are positioned on a heat-resistant surface.

"I would advise using a holder to ensure a candle is placed upright so they cannot fall over and that particular care is taken with night lights and tea lights as they can get hot enough to melt through locations where they are often placed, such as the top of a television set or by the side of a bath tub."

Home Fire Risk Check

People are also being encouraged to carry out an online Home Fire Risk Check to raise awareness and ensure safety.

Councillor Louise Chapman, Oxfordshire County Council's Cabinet member with responsibility for the Fire and Rescue Service, said: "Our online Home Fire Risk Check is an ideal opportunity for residents to establish what fire safety steps they should take in the home - I would encourage everybody to take a few minutes to complete it and familiarise themselves with high-risk areas."

The check is part of 365alive, an Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service initiative designed to promote a safer community through education and prevention work.

Top tips to prevent candles from starting a fire in your home:

  • Never leave lit candles unattended and do not move burning candles
  • Place candles carefully on stable surfaces aware from children, pets and flammable objects like curtains, furniture and bedding
  • Do not burn several candles together as doing so could cause the flame to flair
  • Place scented candles in a suitable glass or metal container that can withstand the heat of the liquid that scented candles turn in to
  • Use a snuffer or a spoon to extinguish lit candles: blowing them can send sparks and hot wax flying
  • Fit smoke alarms in the home and regularly test they are working
  • Have a fire escape plan to ensure home occupants can escape promptly if required
  • Get out and stay out if there is a fire and call 999