Candle Safety

By Millie Reynolds and Liz Delahey, Home Economists

Updated in June 2015 by the Manitoba Association of Home Economists

Candles are beautiful and help create a relaxing soothing atmosphere, but they can be a fire hazard. The National Fire Protection Association reports that candles were responsible for 18,000 fires in U.S. homes in 2001 marking a 15 percent increase from 2000. Based on data from Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and B.C., it is estimated that candles were responsible for an average of nearly 800 candle fires in Canada each year between 1999 and 2008, with a yearly average of 8 fire deaths, 115 fire injuries and $26.2 million in property damage. Candle fires are most common during holidays and special occasions.

Four out of 10 of the candle fires started in bedrooms. They occurred most frequently in December when 11 percent involved holiday decorations. About one third of those who died in fires were using candles because the power had been shut off.

Reduce chances of your candles starting a fire by:

  • Extinguishing candles when you leave a room or go to bed
  • Refraining from getting so involved in another activity such as talking on the telephone or reading that you forget about the burning candle
  • Using dripless candles
  • Placing candles on stable furniture in sturdy candle holders large enough to collect any wax so the candle will not tip over and start a fire
  • Ensuring the candle holder is fire and heat resistant. Use well ventilated candle holders that are sturdy and will not tip over. Avoid wooden or plastic holders, as these can catch fire. Use caution with glass candle holders, which can break when they get too hot.
  • Placing candles away from flammable materials such as drapes, chesterfields, walls or dried out Christmas trees
  • Keeping candles out of reach of children and pets so they don’t get knocked over
  • Keeping lighters and matches in a safe place away from children
  • Trimming the candlewick to .5 cm (1/4 inch) to keep the flame small. Less soot will be created to stain the ceiling.
  • Limiting the number of candles burning at one time so you can keep an eye on them
  • Forbidding children from burning candles in their bedrooms
  • Lighting candles in only one or two rooms to send a safety message to the children
  • Preventing yourself from falling asleep while a candle is burning
  • Follow the instructions printed on the label.
  • Trim candle wicks to a height of 5-7 mm (1/4 inch) before lighting the candle. Trim them again every 2-3 hours to prevent high flames.
  • Take extra care if you are burning candles with more than one wick. Avoid buying candles with multiple wicks that are close together.
  • Never drop objects, like matches, into candles.
  • Keep burning candles away from materials that can catch fire (like curtains, decorations and clothing). If your clothes catch fire, “Stop, Drop and Roll.”
  • Do not burn candles that have lead in the wicks. When you buy candles, ask the retailer if the wicks contain lead.
  • Avoid using decorative oil lamps with liquid fuel if you have children under the age of five in your household. If you choose to use this type of candle, keep the fuel locked away, out of sight and reach of children. If you think your child has swallowed liquid fuel, contact your nearest poison control centre immediately.
  • Teach your children to be careful around open flames. Make sure they understand that candles are not toys, or something they can eat or drink.

If you want to really enjoy candles, tend to all the safety factors before you light them.

Information from Health Canada:

Updated October 2020