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.