Candle fire warning: How a tiny flame can burn out of control in seconds

This flat in East Sussex was severely damaged after a candle set light to furniture

Fire services across the south are warning it can take just seconds for a tiny candle flame to burn out of control, completely destroying a home.

There are more than one thousand candle related house fires every year across the UK, that's twenty a week.

Christmas is the time of year when most of the incidents happen, as candles and incense sticks are used, and firefighters say people in the Christmas spirit can let their guard down.

It comes after ITV reporter Sarah Colley revealed she was left with facial burns following an accident with a tea light.

In Berkshire candle fires result in around 300 casualties each year.

Between 2018 and 2021, the service attended 56 incidents within Berkshire that were caused by candles or incense sticks.

Martin O'Keefe, RBFRS station manager said, "Obviously the use of candles increases during the winter months, when people try and create a nice atmosphere in their homes, particularly during the festive period.

"We would ask people to try and be safe when using candles.

"Any incident that involves a naked flame can be incredibly serious. I've been to numerous incidents involving candles ranging from small fires where a curtain or a piece of furniture has caught alight, to fires where an entire home has been destroyed.

"We encourage people to try and be safe when using candles.

"If you can, try and replace candles with LED lights. But if you are going to use candles, we ask you use them safely. Place them on firm clear surfaces, away from pets and ignitable objects."

In East Sussex, between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021, the fire service were called out to 12 fires in which a candle was identified as the cause.

Katie Cornhill from East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said, "A fire involving a candle can lead to a very serious fire.

Another property in East Sussex badly damaged by fire as a result of a candle

She added, "There was a flat fire that we attended, where the candle set alight to artificial decorations.

"They fell off the mantelpiece, set fire to the sofa and caused a severe fire in the living room. This led to the flat being uninhabitable for three months.

Katie Cornhill, East Sussex Fire and Rescue

She continued, "There were four people in the premises who were treated for serious smoke inhalation.

"The important take away from that is that there were no smoke alarms present in the premises. So make sure you have a smoke alarm, and have a routine for testing them.

  • Never leave lit candles unattended. Put burning candles out when you 

    leave the room, and make sure they’re out completely at night.

  • Place your candles carefully. Make sure they are on a stable surface, 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 drafts, vents or air currents. This will help prevent rapid or uneven burning, soot, and dripping.

  • Always put scented candles in a heat resistant holder. These candles are designed to liquefy when heated to maximise fragrance.

  • Fit smoke alarms and test them now and monthly. 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.