Baran-Unland: Snuff out this holiday tradition for good

Candles are pretty and they smell good. They also cause deadly fires.

Candles are an easy way to add elegance and ambiance to a holiday party.

They’re also a really bad idea.

The National Fire Protection Association’s website said an average of “20 home candle fires are reported each day” and that the peak day for candles fires is Christmas.

The website also said that 2015 to 2019, “U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 7,400 home structure fires that were started by candles per year.”

This resulted in an annual average of “90 deaths, 670 injuries and $291 million in direct property damage.”

Now I love candles. But I stopped burning real ones years ago when a kitten jumped up on a buffet where one was lit, knocking said candle into a floral display, which flamed up like Fourth of July fireworks.

We hustled people outside and put out the fire with huge pots of water. We put away our candles for good and hung a large picture over the scorched paneling. Battery-operated candles now provide the elegance and ambiance, the recommendation of the NFPA.

I’ve been sans candles for so many years that I’d nearly forgotten about the “kitten and candle” story until Dee Bode of Joliet sent this cautionary tale and asked me to pass it along to Herald-News readers.

Years ago, Bode invited a divorced relative and his two children to Thanksgiving dinner with Bode and her extended family and asked the relative to contribute the pies.

“Trying to make it really nice I set the table with good China, crystal and cloth napkins and candles,” Bode wrote in a Facebook message.

Bode put the pies on the credenza behind her and made room for the turkey among the lit candles.

“Somehow a napkin got put there too and we didn’t notice the fire till someone smelled something burning,” Bode wrote. “I looked behind me and [the] pie boxes and napkin were burning. Lucky my husband is a retired firefighter, so it was put out before much damage done to the pies.”

The elegant part of the dinner was, of course, ruined. But that wasn’t the only consequence.

“I’m not allowed to burn candles anymore,” Bode said.

For information on candle safety, visit nfpa.org.