Dec. 31, 2003 -- A candle, some fuel, and a little carelessness can be the elements of a holiday tragedy.
New Year's Eve is the second most dangerous holiday for candle fires, next to Christmas. There were 150 candle-related fires on New Year's Day alone in 1999, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Christmas Day had 200 candle-related fires.
As candles have grown more popular, so have the dangers. In 1999, there were an estimated 15,040 home candle fires that caused 102 deaths, 1,473 injuries and $278 million in damage. By contrast, in 1990, there were 5,460 home fires attributed to candles.
The hazards of candles are not always obvious. For one thing, if left lit too long, some candles can overheat and, like trick birthday candles, they can even spontaneously re-ignite after being snuffed out.
Here are some safety tips:
Most candle fires were caused by combustibles being too close to the candle. Burn candles inside a one-foot circle of safety, free of anything that can burn.
Don't place lit candles in windows, where blinds or curtains can cover them.
The second most common cause of candle fires is due to the candle falling over or being knocked over by wind, doors, children or pets.
Place candles on stable surfaces, in sturdy holders that grip the candle securely and won't tip over. If a taper candle seems to be loose in its holder, tap the bottom of the candle on a flat surface a couple of times to widen the base.