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Votive Candles & Fire Prevention

Candles play an important role in the lives of the faithful. Many Catholics find great comfort in the practice of visiting their parish church to light a candle and offer prayers for the departed or someone in need.

While it is important that churches offer votive candles to the faithful, it is equally important to keep in mind that having open flames in a church poses some dangers. Following these recommendations will help ensure the safety of all.

The National Candle Association suggests the following when burning candles:

  • Always use a candleholder specifically designed for candle use. It should be heat-resistant, sturdy, and large enough to contain any drips or melted wax.
  • Place the candleholder on a stable, heat-resistant surface.
  • Keep the wax pool clear of wick trimmings, matches and debris at all times.
  • Avoid drafts, vents or air currents. This will help prevent rapid or uneven burning, sooting, and excessive dripping

BYO Not Allowed

Some parishes report that parishioners add their own homemade candles, or even “saint” candles purchased from the local supermarket, to the assortment of votive candles at church. The problem with these candles, however, is that their safety cannot be guaranteed. For one thing, the glass containers used for homemade candles are usually not thick and sturdy enough. In addition, the wick may not be centered in a homemade candle, contributing to a fire hazard. For these reasons, parishioners should be discouraged from bringing homemade or “saint” candles to church.

Placement is Key

The placement of the votive candle stand is critical. Candle stands should sit atop non-combustible materials such as granite, tile or marble. If the stand must be placed on carpet, a Plexiglass sheet should be placed directly under the stand to reduce the risk of fire as well as to protect the surface underneath from damage due to wax or matches. Candles must be kept away from linens, curtains, flowers or runners, as these pose fire hazards. They should also be kept at a safe distance from any statues as the smoke can cause damage to the statuary.

Matches and lighting sticks should be kept out of the reach of young children. A noncombustible container filled with sand should be placed beside the votive stand to extinguish matches. A fire extinguisher should always be stored nearby in the event of emergency.

Safeguarding Donations

Most candle stands come with a locked box for handling donations. However, if your candle stand does not have one, the website Churchsupplier.com has many options available. Each parish should have a policy for collecting donation money from the locked boxes. Use your offertory collection guidelines as a starting point. Designate two individuals to collect and count the money, keep a record of the donations, and make sure the money is deposited in a timely manner.

Following these simple guidelines will avoid many possible dangers, while at the same time creating a prayerful environment for all.

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