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East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service logo
Unattended candles (2)
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Unattended scented candle

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Fire in thatched roof

Fire in thatched roof


Fire damage

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Fire damage

Fire damage

How this fire happened

While candles can give a warm glow to a room during the dark winter evenings, left unattended or close to flammable materials they can cause devastation. Unattended or carelessly positioned candles caused 952 fires in the UK between 2011 and 12. This resulted in 9 fatalities and 368 injuries.

Thankfully nobody was injured when the owners of a historic thatched cottage inadvertently placed a scented candle too close to curtains, causing a severe blaze. The fire engulfed the ground floor and first floor at the two story property, destroyed the roof and caused significant damage to an adjoining cottage.

At its height, 95 firefighters and 12 appliances were involved in fighting the fire. Fortunately there were no injuries.

The effect it had

Safety message

Safety Message - Do.
  • Fit a smoke alarm and test it regularly. A working smoke alarm can buy you valuable time to get out, stay out and call 999.
  • Make sure that everyone in your home knows what to do if there is a fire and practice your escape route.
  • Place your candles carefully. Make sure they are on a stable surface, out of the reach of pets and children, and keep them away from flammable objects such as curtains, furniture, bedding and books.
  • Put candles out with a snuffer or a spoon - sparks can fly if you blow them out.
  • Burn candles in a well-ventilated room, out of drafts, vents or air currents. This will help prevent rapid or uneven burning, soot, and dripping.
  • Always put scented candles in a heat resistant holder. These candles are designed to liquefy when heated to maximise fragrance
  • Another Black Museum case highlights the fire safety measures you need to take if your property has a thatched roof.

Safety Message Don't
  • Leave lit candles unattended. Put burning candles out when you leave the room, and make sure they’re out completely at night.
  • Move candles once they are lit.
  • Burn several candles close together as this might cause the flame to flare.

Further information

Do you have a similar story?

We would be interested to hear from you if you have had a similar experience to the fire detailed above, or would like to raise any related matters or even just generally comment on how useful you found our Black Museum.

Please send us your details and a comments via our on-line feedback form.


 This case study was contributed by:

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service


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Latest Update :
03 February 2015
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