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LGA - Candle fire deaths treble in two years, fire authorities and councils warn

The number of people killed in fires started by candles has trebled in two years, prompting fire authorities and councils to issue a warning about their use

Candle fires have risen by 10 per cent, from 991 in 2013/14 to 1,087 in 2014/15 – a rate of three a day - while injuries caused by them have increased by 9 per cent over the same period, from 353 to 384, according to latest government figures.

Deaths caused by fires started by candles have trebled from five to 15 between 2012/13 and 2014/15.

The Local Government Association (LGA) which represents more than 370 councils and all fire authorities in England and Wales, is urging people to take sensible precautions with candles during winter and the festive period when they are more likely to be used.

Recent candle fires and related inquests include:

  • A seven-week-old baby was taken to hospital after a Christmas candle decoration made at school caught fire, filling a home in Manchester with thick, black smoke
  • A baby and two adults were taken to hospital after a candle left burning in a living room set fire to a Basildon flat which was completely smoke-logged
  • Firefighters tackled three fires involving candles in the Wrexham area in less than a week – including one in which a dog and a cat died
  • A woman drowned in her bath in Sheffield after breathing in smoke during a house fire – which reached 600C - caused by a candle
  • A night-time bedroom fire in Reading is believed to have been caused by an unattended candle which destroyed the house

Industry figures show candle sales have increased by 17 per cent in 2016 and more than a quarter of British households now buy scented candles which have become fashionable in home decoration.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

"Candles and tealights have become increasingly popular in many homes but it's important to remember that they are not just another decoration.

"Left unattended, the naked flame from a candle could result in a devastating house fire, injuring or killing you as a result.

"Three fires are started by candles every day and insurance companies may not pay out on claims if a fire is deemed to be a result of negligence.

"People using candles should avoid becoming a fire statistic by following important safety advice.

"Always put candles in a heat resistant holder and on a stable surface. Lit candles should be kept away from flammable materials like curtains and bedding, as well as pets and children.

"Always remember to extinguish candles when nobody is in the room and make sure they're out completely at night. Fit a smoke alarm and test it regularly to provide further safety precautions."

Candle safety advice

  • Always place candles and tealights in a fire resistant holder and on a flat and stable surface. Scented candles are designed to liquefy when heated to maximise fragrance
  • Never leave burning candles unattended. Put burning candles out when you leave the room, and make sure they're out completely at night
  • Place your candles carefully. Never put them under shelves, other enclosed spaces, or place them out of the reach of pets and children, and keep them away from flammable objects like curtains, furniture, bedding and books
  • Don't move candles once they are lit
  • Do not burn several candles close together as this might cause the flame to flare
  • Burn candles in a well-ventilated room, out of draughts, vents or air currents. This will help prevent rapid or uneven burning, soot, and dripping
  • Fit a smoke alarm and test it regularly. A working smoke alarm can buy you valuable time to get out, stay out and call 999
  • Make sure that everyone in your home knows what to do if a fire should occur - practise your escape route

Fires caused by candles

  • A seven-week-old baby was taken to hospital after a candle Christmas decoration made at school caught fire, filling a home in Manchester with smoke
  • A baby and two adults were taken to hospital after a candle left burning in a living room through the night set fire to a Basildon flat which was completely smoke-logged
  • North Wales Fire and Rescue Service is reminding people to take extra care with naked flames following three fires involving candles in the Wrexham area in less than a week – during one in which a dog and a cat died.
  • A woman drowned in her bath in Sheffield after breathing in smoke during a house fire – which reached 600C - caused by a candle
  • A night-time bedroom fire in Reading is believed to have been caused by an unattended candle which destroyed the house
  • A tenant fled a bedroom fire in Birmingham caused by candles which severely damaged the home
  • A woman fled her home in Maidstone, Kent after her bedroom went up in flames when she accidentally knocked over a candle on a bedside table
  • Six people fled a night-time bedroom fire believed to have been started by an unattended candle in Bournemouth

Notes to editor

  1. Figures for fires caused by candles are taken from the latest government fire statistics (table FIRE0602)
  2. The candle market has grown by 17.3 per cent in 2016 according to Candle Manufacturers & Suppliers (UK) - Industry Report
  3. More than a quarter of British households now buy scented candles, according to research company Kantar
  4. In 2010, Reckitt Benckiser, manufacturers of Air Wick candles, reported that 70 per cent of annual candle sales were made between September and February
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