Candlelight can prove deadlyIf anyone asked you the top causes of home fires, chances are you would come up with all of the logical choices – smoking in bed, cooking over too hot a flame, stoking up the woodstove or leaving a pan on the stove unattended. To be sure, all of these are primary causes of many of the accidental home fires that cause destruction of property, personal injury and, in some cases, loss of life.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
If anyone asked you the top causes of home fires, chances are you would come up with all of the logical choices – smoking in bed, cooking over too hot a flame, stoking up the woodstove or leaving a pan on the stove unattended. To be sure, all of these are primary causes of many of the accidental home fires that cause destruction of property, personal injury and, in some cases, loss of life.
One of the hazards we don’t often think of, however, is leaving a candle unattended or too close to a combustible source. And yet, a single candle can – and sometimes does – cause mass devastation.
A candle left burning on a bedroom nightstand has been targeted as the cause of a house fire in Cloquet on Monday night. Thankfully, the homeowner and local firefighters were quick to react and the fire was largely contained to that one room, with only minor smoke damage to the rest of the house. The estimated price tag of the property loss – $25,000.
This was by no means an isolated incident. Candles are the third-leading cause of house fires in Minnesota, following cooking and home heating. We need look no further afield than the surrounding area for anecdotal evidence.
A report in last week’s Duluth News Tribune logged the third incident in as many months where unattended candles were the cause of a house fire. The first occurred on April 7, when candles inadvertently left burning ignited an early morning fire in an East Hillside home. Fortunately, smoke alarms and barking dogs awakened the homeowners and a renter, who escaped out of second-story windows, though the fire itself caused extensive damage.
On May 12, unattended candles caused an estimated $80,000 in damage to a home in Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood. The homeowner discovered the house was filled with smoke when she returned from running errands after forgetting to snuff out the burning candles before she left.
Most recently, firefighters responded to a fire in a single-family dwelling in Duluth’s Piedmont Heights neighborhood shortly after 11:30 at night. As in the Cloquet incident, firefighters were able to contain the blaze to a single bedroom, but it caused an estimated $40,000 in damage to the structure and its contents.
In all such incidents, the fires could have been avoided if the residents had made a concerted effort to remember to put out the burning candles before leaving the room or house. As we are all aware, however, a momentary distraction is sometimes all it takes to quickly forget about such things. When that happens and a fire breaks out, the next best thing we can do is to equip ourselves to mediate a potentially tragic situation by making sure we have working smoke detectors in our homes.
Sometimes that few extra seconds to stop and think if you’ve extinguished all open flames can prevent catastrophe, and the warning from a smoke alarm can mean the difference between life and death.
They are simple steps that are well worth the effort.