'I feared being scarred for life': ITV News journalist's candle warning after suffering facial burns

  • By ITV News Content Hub Producer Sarah Colley

I always loved the smell of scented candles. I used to light them all of the time and never gave it a second thought.

I always considered myself pretty sensible though, I never left them unattended and always made sure they were in a proper holder. There are so many stories about people melting their TVs or bathtubs with tea lights.But after a painful freak accident in September this year, I completely reevaluated having them in my home. In fact, candles are now banned.I lit a tea light in a glass dish, something I had done a hundred times before. After a few minutes I noticed that the flame had grown a bit too big, so I decided to blow it out for safety.What I didn't expect was that the boiling hot wax would explode over my face and lips, causing excruciating burns. It was such a terrible shock.

'I wondered if I would be scarred for life': Hot wax splashed on to Sarah's face Credit: ITV News

I remember jumping in a freezing cold shower for about 45 minutes after it happened to try and stop the burning sensation.Eventually, I decided to go to A&E to get it checked out where a nurse tried to scrape the remnants of wax from my face.I genuinely thought that I was going to be scarred for life. I couldn't tell where my lip finished and my face began, it was just a burned mess.The first picture in this article was actually taken nearly a week after the accident happened, but at the time the injuries looked far worse and my skin was continuously weeping.

Sarah's chin and lips were badly scalded by the tea light Credit: ITV News

I had to drink through a straw for weeks and the constant itching was driving me up the wall.

But skin is an amazing thing and I am so lucky that it healed so quickly with no permanent scarring. You'd never know, apart from my chin looks a bit red when I don't wear make-up.After what happened to me, I decided to look more into candle safety and this is how I met Wazcar Abreu who had a totally different experience.Although he didn't suffer any injuries like I did, he came close to losing everything.It started with three tea lights his cousin, lit in memory of a relative at the flat they shared - something he did often.His cousin popped out and within minutes, the house was in flames.

Wazcar Abreu's flat fire was started by three unattended tea lights Credit: West Midlands Fire Service

Wazcar returned home to find a dozen firefighters: "I'm just thinking I don't believe it, I see it, but I don't believe it.

"I just think I am in a movie or something, dreaming, I could see my own place on fire and you can see from outside all of the smoke, everything is so bad. You can't imagine how that happened really, so quick so fast."The whole ordeal was caught on CCTV. The rare footage not only shows the tea lights being lit, but the speed at which the fire develops.

Sarah meets Wazcar Abreu to talk about their shared experience with a flash fire Credit: ITV News

Crew Commander Dave Bailey, helped to put the fire out. He said: “We needed to wear breathing apparatus and to force our way into the empty flat, before using hose reel jets to extinguish the flames.“The fire damage was confined to the landing area, but could have been much worse. Fortunately, no one was hurt but there was extensive smoke damage throughout."I asked Wazcar how he felt about watching the video back: "I feel really choked really, how three little candles that small can cause damage like this. I can't explain how this happened really?"

Although it's no easy watch for him, Wazcar has been sharing his story and the video as a warning to people not to leave candles unattended, not even for a second.There are around a thousand house fires caused by candles every year and more than 300 candle-related injuries.Fire services across the country report an increase in incidents during the winter months and are keen for people to brush up on fire safety. But there are lots of safer alternatives out there, like battery operated varieties and LED lights which can look just as effective.Understandably, Wazcar and I won't be lighting any candles this festive season, but if you are, use the following advice to avoid your Christmas going up in smoke.

Avoiding Candle Fires

Candles can create a relaxing or special atmosphere, but also bring fire into your home. So to avoid candle fires please use them carefully:

  • keep burning candles in sight and extinguish them before leaving a room or going to sleep

  • never burn a candle on, or near, anything that can catch fire

  • keep them out of the reach of children and pets, and away from anywhere they might knock them over

  • place burning candles at least three inches apart so they don’t melt one another or create draughts that can cause the candles to flare

  • always use a sturdy, heat-resistant candle holder on a heat-resistant surface that’s big enough to contain drips and melted wax

  • keep burning candles away from draughts, vents, ceiling fans and air currents. Draughts could also blow lightweight items into a flame where they could catch fire.

Putting Out Candles

  • Extinguishing candles with water could cause hot wax to splatter or a glass container to shatter. Instead, use a metal spoon or a snuffer.

  • Make sure a candle is completely extinguished and the wick is no longer glowing before leaving the room.

  • Never use a candle as a nightlight. Never touch or move a burning candle when the wax is liquid.