Fire chief advises candle, carbon monoxide safety

Candles used without caution pose a safety risk as well as carbon monoxide dangers this Christmas season. Sarasota County Fire Chief Ken Ellerbe and Sarasota County Fire Marshal Jane Ross are reminding residents to always be cautious and aware of the dangers associated with candles and carbon monoxide.

Often called the silent killer, carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless and colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil and methane) burn incompletely. Symptoms of CO poisoning include severe headache, dizziness, mental confusion, nausea and faintness.

In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage also can produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. The risk of unintentional CO death is highest for people age 75 and above.

For more information on candle safety and carbon monoxide poisoning, call the Sarasota County Call Center at 861-5000 and ask for the Public Safety Education Office or visit the county’s Web site at www.scgov.net.

Candle, fire safety tips
• Use candles only when an adult is present and awake.

• Always remain awake when candles are being burned in a room.

• Keep lighted candles at least one foot from mattresses, curtains or other flammable materials.

• Burn candles where they won’t tip or be knocked over, and never place candles in windowsills or near window coverings.

• Keep candles out of reach of children and pets.

• Extinguish all candles before going to sleep or leaving a room. A good rule of candle safety is that when you go out, blow it out.

• Never use a candle for light when checking pilot lights or fueling equipment such as a kerosene heater or lanterns, as the flame could ignite flammable vapors.

• In a power outage, it’s safer to use flashlights or other light sources generated by batteries.

• If young children live in or visit your home, lock up matches, lighters and other fire tools,

• If a fire occurs in the home, leave the house immediately and call 9-1-1. Make sure your family has an escape plan and knows where to go upon leaving the house.

• Once outside the house, do not go back inside for any reason, even to rescue pets, which are low to the ground and have a good chance to escape on their own.

• Always have a working smoke detector in your home.

CO safety tips
• Install CO alarms (listed by an independent testing laboratory) inside the home in a central location outside each separate sleeping area to warn of accumulating CO.

• After purchasing an alarm, post 9-1-1 by all telephones and make sure everyone in the household knows to call this number regardless if it is a fire or CO emergency.

• Test CO alarms at least once a month, and replace CO alarms according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

• If warming a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle, generator or other fueled engine or motor indoors even if garage doors are open. Never leave a vehicle running while it is parked.

• Have fuel-burning household heating equipment (fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, wood and coal stoves, space or portable heaters and chimneys) inspected by a professional every year before cold weather arrives.

• When using a fireplace, open the flue for adequate ventilation.

• Open a window slightly whenever using a kerosene or gas heater. (Kerosene heaters are illegal in many states. Always check with local authorities before buying or using one.) Only refuel outside, after the device has cooled.

• Never use an oven to heat the home.

• Only use barbecue grills outside since they can produce CO. Never use grills in the home or garage.

• When purchasing new heating and cooking equipment, select products tested and labeled by an independent testing laboratory.

• When purchasing an existing home, have a qualified technician evaluate the integrity of the heating and cooking systems, and the sealed spaces between the garage and the house.

• When camping, only use battery-powered heaters and flashlights in tents, trailers and motor homes.

• CO alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms. Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home and in or outside all sleeping areas.

• Know the difference between the sound of the smoke alarm and the CO alarm.

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3 Responses for “Fire chief advises candle, carbon monoxide safety”

  1. Archie Ketchum says:

    How do you test a carbon monoxide detector with real carbon monoxide with out burning something.
    To see that it REALLY WORKS!

  2. Inspect USA says:

    Make sure you have a Carbon Monoxide detector installed near the sleeping areas. If you have a detector installed, test the CO sensor regularly using real Carbon Monoxide gas and replace the batteries every year. Also it is very important to replace your CO detector before the expiration date printed on the CO detector. If there is no expiration date, then you should just replace it. And please use the same action with your Smoke Detectors too.
    Any gasoline, propane or other fuel powered equipment has the potential to create carbon monoxide. This includes generators, lawn equipment and the exhaust from automobiles. If you have an attached garage, it is important to have a Carbon Monoxide detector in the house near the door to the garage. If a car or equipment is left running in an enclosed garage for an extended period of time, it could produce carbon monoxide that seeps into the house.

  3. Candle Guru says:

    I work with a group that tests candles. Our objective is to ID the best design but in the process of testing we routinely find candles that fail (16% so far!). What surprises us is that these are candles sold at the major big box retailers. It is becoming much easier for us to understand why there are house fires caused by candles as we add more and more failures to our list.

    We agree with Chief Ellerbe and Marshal Ross. Unfortunately, industry tests (which are not mandatory by the way) do not even include the most prevalent form of failure – a candle left to burn unattended. Candles burn slowly but when they fail, they fail in minutes. This compounds the fire risk. These time lapse videos will give you an idea of how dangerous they can be – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTOUpbimdYk & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gHBHy6FcaY .

    Marty Ahrens of the National Fire Protection Association published a great report on Home Candle Fires in June of this year. You might find the statistics interesting. For example, a candle causes a house fire every 30 minutes in the US! Order report #PKG34 @ http://www.nfpa.org/index.asp if you are interested in the details.

    You can see pictures of the failed candles we tested at http://candlecritique.com/id18.html

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