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by Abigail Van Buren

Kids and Candles Are Dangerous Holiday Mix

DEAR ABBY: Please help me to inform your readers about a common cause of home fires. We're heading into the season when there is a marked increase in the use of candles. Already booming in popularity, candles become the staple decoration during the winter holidays. They grace tabletops, mantels and windows from Halloween through New Year's Eve. However, these cheery and inspiring holiday decorations can generate more than flickering light. They are the cause of nearly 10,000 fires and take more than 100 lives a year.

According to the National Fire Protection Association's fire database, the number of candle fires that occur in the month of December is almost twice that of any other month. Nearly half of all home candle fires start in the bedroom -- and sadly, young school-age children have a higher death risk from candle fires than from other fires.

These are frightening statistics. However, candle fires don't have to spoil the holidays. Candles can be used safely IF consumers follow a few simple rules:

-- If children are present, supervise lighted candles at all times, making sure they are displayed on stable surfaces well out of reach of children and pets.

-- Always use sturdy candle holders large enough to collect dripping wax.

-- Avoid purchasing candles in which flammable decorations have been embedded.

-- Keep candles well away from all items that can catch fire, including clothing.

-- Extinguish candles before leaving a room or going to sleep.

-- Never allow children to keep or use candles in their bedrooms.

-- For emergency lighting, use flashlights, not candles.

Your readers can download free, detailed safety tips for candles and other holiday decorations by visiting the NFPA Web site online at www.nfpa.org. -- GEORGE D. MILLER, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION

DEAR GEORGE: With Halloween and Thanksgiving just around the corner, I hope my readers will heed your advice and "candle with care." Thank you for helping them do that.

Readers, if you don't have access to the Internet and would like more detailed information about candle safety, send a long, business-sized, self-addressed, stamped envelope to Dear Abby -- Candle Safety, NFPA, P.O. Box 9101, Quincy, MA 02269-9101. Please allow four to six weeks for delivery.

DEAR ABBY: My husband is desperate for friends. He allows a recently divorced co-worker to do his laundry in our home. He expects me to cook meals for people he barely knows. Most of them are nerds and losers.

I have my own circle of friends. I've known many of them for more than 25 years. We are a tight group. I don't need or want to know his friends.

Please help. His kindness toward others is driving me crazy! -- LONG-SUFFERING WIFE

DEAR LONG-SUFFERING WIFE: You don't have to like all your husband's friends. But marriage is a partnership, and as much as you may enjoy your "tight group" of longtime friends, it's time to expand your horizons and be less judgmental.

P.S. Your husband sounds like a sweetheart to me. He could pitch in to help with the cooking, however, on the evenings he wants you to feed his friends.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600