Widnes mum warns other families after house fire started by a candle

Damage caused by fireA woman from Widnes is warning people of the dangers of having lit candles in your home after she and her teenage daughter suffered burns in a house fire.

Susan Forsyth, 49, was woken up by the sounds of her 18-year-old daughter Courtney screaming and the smoke alarms in their Lacey Street home sounding in the early hours of Monday 3 June.

A burning candle in Courtney’s bedroom had set her quilt alight as she slept and left her with burns to her legs, arms, feet, back and hair.

Susan rushed to her aid and tried to beat the fire out.

But the flames quickly spread throughout the bedroom and left Susan with burns on her arm.

Unable to put the fire out, Susan led Courtney and her 17-year-old son out of the house.

Firefighters soon arrived from Widnes, Runcorn and Penketh fire stations after being notified of the incident by a neighbour.

The crews isolated the gas and electricity supplies to the house and used a hose reel jet and a covering jet to extinguish the fire.

They also gave Susan and Courtney oxygen before paramedics arrived to take the pair to hospital to treat them for smoke inhalation as well as their burns.

Susan was discharged later that day but Courtney spent two days in hospital.

With the fire having destroyed Courtney’s bedroom and caused extensive damage to the rest of the upstairs of the house, they are now recovering from their injuries at temporary accommodation in Widnes.

Susan said: “We are lucky to be alive and I will never allow a candle to be in my home again.

“Courtney had a lit candle in her room when she fell asleep. My 17-year-old son and I were also asleep in the house.

“That candle has left my daughter with burns from her feet to her hair, some of which were caused by wax from the candle, and left me with burns on my arm.

“It has also caused extensive damage to our family home.

“Courtney has been left in a lot of pain and we are all still in shock over what happened. It was absolutely terrifying, but it could have been a lot worse.

“I dread to think what would have happened if Courtney had not woken up when she did and if we did not have working smoke alarms in the house.

“It was around 5am when I was woken up by the sounds of Courtney screaming and the smoke alarms sounding.

“Courtney was under her quilt when it was set alight by the candle.

“I tried to put it out but the fire spread so quickly. Thankfully all three of us were able to get out of the house.

“The firefighters and the paramedics were amazing. The fire was put out as quickly as possible, preventing the house from being complexly destroyed and the flames spreading to our neighbours’ homes.

“Firefighters evacuated our next door neighbours’ homes and also gave Courtney and I oxygen as we were both suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation.

“I just hope that others learn from what has happened to us and never leave a candle burning when they leave a room or before going to sleep.”

Four firefighters wearing breathing apparatus went inside the house.

Once the fire was out they checked that it had not spread to the loft space using a thermal imaging camera.

The crews left the scene after making sure that the bedroom and the house in general were safe.

They were in attendance for more than two hours.

Nick Evans, Head of Prevention at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS), said: “Candles can lend a warm glow to an evening, but please remember that they also bring fire into your home.

“As such, they need to be treated carefully.

“Leaving candles lit when you leave a room or go to sleep can have fatal consequences.

“Candle fires result in around 350 casualties in the UK each year, with nearly 40 per cent of all fires started by candles resulting in a death or injury.

“To prevent such a fire starting in your home please follow our candle safety advice.”

It is safer to use battery operated candles, which give the ambience of the real thing. But if you are using wax candles in your home make sure that you:

  • Keep clothes and hair away from the naked flame

  • Always use a suitable holder when burning candles

  • Keep candles out of the reach of children and away from pets

  • Consider an extra smoke alarm in the rooms where you use candles

  • Extinguish candles before moving them and do not let anything fall into the hot wax

  • Extinguish candles before you leave a room and never go to sleep with a candle still burning

  • Extinguish a candle if the flame becomes too high

  • Trim the wick – this prevents the flame from becoming too large

  • Use a snuffer or a spoon to put candles out – blowing the flame can send sparks and hot wax flying

  • Double check that candles are completely out and not smouldering

  • Do not burn a candle longer than the manufacturer recommends

  • Place candles away from curtains and other flammable items

  • Never put candles under shelves – make sure that there is at least one metre (three feet) between a candle and any surface above it

  • Keep burning candles away from draughts, open windows and fans

  • Put candles on a heat-resistant surface

  • Scented candles turn to liquid in order to release their fragrance, so always burn them in a suitable glass or metal container that can withstand the heat of the liquid

  • Avoid lighting candles when alcohol is being consumed.

In relation to candles in jars, there have been occasions when they have shattered without warning when the level of the wax inside has fallen to the base of the jar.

This occurs due to less heat energy being absorbed by the remaining wax, resulting in the glass heating up excessively to the point when it may crack or shatter with force.

Users are advised to continually supervise all candles and extinguish them when the level of wax reduces close to the base of a jar.

Even once the candle is out, never pick up a hot jar that has contained a burning candle until it has cooled sufficiently to be able to do so.

Nick added: “I wish the family all the very best and hope that they recover fully from this ordeal.

“If anyone finds a fire in their home they should not try to tackle it themselves but get out of the house as quickly as possible, stay out and dial 999.

“Incidents like the bedroom fire in Widnes also emphasise the importance of having a working smoking alarm on every floor of your home and having an effective plan of action to escape should a fire ever start in your property.”

Date published: Fri, 14 Jun 2019 16:17:06 GMT

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