Do Candles Cause House Fires? The Surprising Truth

Candles have been a part of human life for thousands of years. From religious ceremonies to romantic dinners, candles have been used to create ambiance, provide light, and even ward off insects.

However, with their open flames and hot wax, candles also pose a potential fire hazard.

In fact, candles are one of the leading causes of house fires in the United States. While some may argue that candles are harmless if used properly, others argue that they should be banned altogether.

So, what is the truth about candles and house fires? Let’s delve into the facts and myths surrounding this controversial topic.

Do Candles Cause House Fires

Yes, candles can cause house fires if they are not used safely and responsibly. Unattended candles, placing candles near flammable materials, using combustible surfaces, knocking over candles, using candles with defects or damage, overheating candles, using improper candle holders, and ignoring safety precautions are some of the common factors that can result in candle fires.

When a candle is lit, it produces an open flame that can easily ignite nearby flammable materials, leading to a fire.

In addition, candles can be knocked over accidentally, and their flames can come into contact with flammable surfaces or materials, causing a fire to start.

Do Candles Cause House Fires


That’s why it’s important to always use candles safely and follow proper fire safety guidelines to prevent candle fires and protect your home and loved ones from harm.

How to Prevent Candles Fires

To prevent candle fires, it’s important to follow these safety tips:

Never leave candles unattended: Always extinguish candles before leaving a room or going to bed. It’s important to keep a close eye on candles while they are lit and never leave them burning without supervision.

Keep candles away from flammable materials: Keep candles at least 12 inches away from flammable materials such as curtains, decorations, and other combustible items.

Ensure that there are no flammable materials in close proximity to lit candles.

Use sturdy candle holders: Place candles in sturdy, heat-resistant candle holders that are designed for the specific size and type of candle.

Make sure that the candle holder is placed on a stable surface and cannot be easily knocked over.

Trim candle wicks: Keep candle wicks trimmed to about 1/4 inch to prevent excessive flame height and dripping.

Avoid overcrowding candles: Do not place candles too close to each other, as they can heat each other and increase the risk of a fire.

Place candles in safe areas: Avoid placing candles in high-traffic areas where they can be easily bumped or knocked over. Keep candles out of reach of children and pets.

Use flameless candles as an alternative: Consider using flameless candles, which are battery-operated and do not pose a fire risk.

Flameless candles can provide a similar ambiance without the danger of an open flame.

Extinguish candles properly: Use a candle snuffer or a non-flammable lid to extinguish candles, rather than blowing them out, to prevent hot wax from splattering.

Be cautious during power outages: Do not use candles as a primary source of light during power outages. Instead, use flashlights or battery-operated lighting devices.

Educate family members: Teach household members, especially children, about the dangers of candles and the importance of fire safety precautions.

By following these preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of candle fires and ensure a safe environment in your home.

Uses Of Candles

Candles have been used for various purposes throughout history, including:

Decorative purposes: Candles are often used as decorative items in homes, restaurants, hotels, and events to create a warm and inviting ambiance.

Candles come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, allowing for creative and versatile use in interior design and decor.

Religious and spiritual practices: Candles are an integral part of many religious and spiritual practices. They are often used for rituals, ceremonies, prayers, and meditation in different faith traditions.

Candles are used to symbolize light, purity, enlightenment, and divine presence in many religious and spiritual contexts.

Celebrations and special occasions: Candles are commonly used in celebrations such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and other special occasions.

They are often placed on cakes, as part of centerpieces, or used in decorative arrangements to create a festive atmosphere.

Aromatherapy and relaxation: Scented candles are popular for their ability to create a calming and relaxing ambiance.

They are often used in aromatherapy practices to promote relaxation, stress relief, and mood enhancement. Scented candles come in a wide range of fragrances, including lavender, vanilla, citrus, and more.

Emergency lighting: Candles can be used as a source of emergency lighting during power outages or other situations where electricity is not available.

They can provide a temporary source of light to navigate in the dark, provide warmth, and signal for help.

Rituals and ceremonies: Candles are often used in rituals and ceremonies for various purposes, such as candlelight vigils, remembrance ceremonies, and symbolic gestures.

They can represent different meanings and intentions depending on the context in which they are used.

Therapeutic purposes: Candles are sometimes used in therapeutic settings, such as massage therapy, spa treatments, and yoga practices, to create a calming and soothing environment.

Insect repellent: Certain types of candles, such as citronella candles, are known to repel insects like mosquitoes, making them useful for outdoor gatherings and activities.

Art and crafts: Candles can also be used for artistic and craft purposes, such as making handmade candles, candle-making kits, and candle sculptures.

Percentage Of House Fires Caused By Candles

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an average of 21 candle fires are reported per day in the United States.

This statistic highlights the importance of understanding the risks of using candles in our homes. One of the most common causes of house fires is candles left unattended.

It only takes a few seconds for a flame to ignite nearby objects, such as curtains or furniture, leading to a dangerous fire.

In fact, the NFPA reports that candles are responsible for 2% of all reported home fires in the United States, with the majority of these fires starting in the bedroom.

Another factor that can contribute to candle fires is the use of combustible materials around the candle.

Items such as paper, napkins, or other flammable materials should be kept at a safe distance from the candle to prevent accidental ignition.

It is also important to use sturdy candle holders that will not tip over easily and to ensure that the candle is placed on a stable surface.

It’s worth noting that not all candles are created equal when it comes to fire safety.

Candles made from materials such as beeswax or soy tend to burn cleaner and produce less soot than paraffin candles.

Additionally, candles with lead-core wicks have been found to release lead into the air when burned, which can be harmful to health.

Is It Ok To Leave A Candle Burning All Day?

The answer is, it depends. First and foremost, it is important to always use caution when burning candles. Never leave a candle unattended, especially if there are children or pets around.

Make sure the candle is placed on a stable surface, away from any flammable materials or drafts.

It’s also important to keep the wick trimmed to ¼ inch before each use to prevent the flame from getting too large.

Now, to answer the question at hand. Can you leave a candle burning all day? The short answer is technical yes, but it’s not recommended.

Most candles are designed to burn for a few hours at a time, and burning them for extended periods can lead to safety hazards and reduce the overall lifespan of the candle.

One of the main dangers of leaving a candle burning for too long is the risk of fire. Even if the candle is in a safe location, the longer the candle burns, the more likely it is for the flame to get too large and spark a fire.

Additionally, if the candle is near any flammable materials, such as curtains or papers, it can easily catch on fire.

Another risk of leaving a candle burning all day is the buildup of soot. When a candle burns for an extended period, it can produce excess soot that can accumulate on nearby surfaces.

This soot can be difficult to clean and can even cause respiratory issues if inhaled.

Cause Of Candles Fires


Cause Of Candles Fires

Candles fires can be caused by various factors, including:

Unattended candles: Leaving candles unattended, especially in a room or area where there is no one present, is a common cause of candle fires.

A candle left burning for an extended period of time without supervision can ignite nearby flammable materials, such as curtains, decorations, or furniture, leading to a fire.

Placing candles near flammable materials: Placing candles too close to flammable materials, such as curtains, fabric, paper, or decorations, can cause a fire to start.

As candles burn, their flames can ignite nearby materials that can easily catch fire.

Combustible surfaces: Placing candles on surfaces that are not heat-resistant, such as wooden surfaces, countertops, or plastic materials, can cause the surface to ignite and result in a fire.

Knocking over candles: Candles can easily be knocked over by accident, causing the flame to come into contact with flammable materials or surfaces, leading to a fire.

Candle defects or damage: Candles with defects or damage, such as cracked or broken containers, faulty wicks, or poor quality materials, can pose a higher risk of causing a fire.

Overheating candles: Allowing candles to burn for too long, resulting in overheating, can cause the wax to melt excessively, increasing the risk of a fire.

Lack of proper candle holders: Using improper or unstable candle holders that are not designed for the specific size and type of candle can cause candles to tip over, leading to a fire.

Ignoring safety precautions: Not following basic safety precautions, such as not extinguishing candles before leaving a room or going to bed, not trimming candle wicks, or not using flameless candles as an alternative, can increase the risk of candle fires.

What To Do If Your House Catches Fire By Candles

If your house catches fire due to candles, it’s important to prioritize your safety and take immediate action. Here are the steps you should follow:

Stay calm and evacuate: If you discover a fire caused by candles, remain calm and evacuate the area immediately.

Alert everyone in the house and get them out to a safe location away from the fire.

Call emergency services: Dial emergency services, such as the fire department, by calling 911, and report the fire. Provide your location and any relevant information about the fire’s location, size, and cause.

Do not attempt to extinguish the fire: It’s not recommended to try to extinguish a significant fire caused by candles yourself, as it can be dangerous.

Leave firefighting to the professionals and focus on getting yourself and others to safety.

Close doors and windows: As you exit the area or house, close doors and windows behind you to help contain the fire and limit its spread.

Do not re-enter the building: Once you are outside, do not re-enter the building for any reason. Wait for the fire department to arrive and handle the situation.

Follow emergency procedures: Follow any emergency procedures or evacuation plans that you have in place for your home or building, and gather at a designated meeting point outside to ensure that everyone is accounted for.

Seek medical attention if needed: If anyone has sustained injuries due to the fire or smoke, seek medical attention promptly.

Do not use water to extinguish a candle fire: Using water to extinguish a candle fire is not recommended, as it can cause the fire to spread or lead to electrical hazards.

Water should only be used to extinguish small, manageable fires, and only if it is safe to do so.


Candles can pose a fire risk if not used safely and responsibly. Factors such as leaving candles unattended, placing them near flammable materials, using combustible surfaces, using candles with defects or damage, overheating candles, using improper candle holders, and ignoring safety precautions can increase the risk of candle fires.

To prevent candle fires, it’s essential to always supervise candles when they are lit, keep them away from flammable materials, use appropriate candle holders, trim candle wicks, and follow basic fire safety guidelines.

It’s also important to have working smoke detectors in your home and be prepared with an evacuation plan in case of a fire.

By using candles safely and responsibly, you can enjoy their beauty and warmth while minimizing the risk of fires and ensuring a safe environment.