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Experts Warn Against Using Water To Douse Candle Fires

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Americans spend $3.2 billion on candles each year.

During the holidays, scented candles are one of the most popular decorations.

That means December is a peak time for candle fires and there's something you may not know about them.

Simply put, water and wax do not mix.

We are telling this story because of what recently happened to a CBS anchorwoman in Texas.

Kathleen Witte is always telling other people's stories. Now, she has her own to tell.

Several weeks ago, wax inside a candle jar in her kitchen caught fire and she grabbed a cup of water.

"And without even thinking about it, I just poured it onto the flames not even thinking about it, water puts out fire right? Not this one," she said.

She was hit with a wall of flames, which caught her on fire. As a result, she suffered burns to her face, hands and hip.

"My hip is where the shorts were on fire and they melted," she said.

She used stop, drop, and roll to save herself.

Several videos on YouTube show different scenarios of water on burning wax. The flames go out and up, with some of them shooting more than 6 feet in the air.

"The wax that is being puddled in that candle is the fuel. You've got the flame, you've got the fuel and the application of the water just allows it to be spread," Allegheny Co. Emergency Services Chief Matt Brown said.

With the help of firefighters at the Allegheny County Fire academy, we wanted to do our own test.

We took ordinary tea lights and melted them in a container to simulate burning wax in a candle jar.

With one small cup of water the flash of flames filled the entire corner of a room.

Burning wax is just like a grease fire on the stove in the kitchen - you should never use water on either.

"You're going to spread that fire and it's going to splash on you and anything else around you that's going to burn," Brown said.

The best way to put out a candle is to blow it out or put a lid on it.

"If you can take away the oxygen, the flame will go out. That's the safest way to do that," Brown said.

There are some other things to keep in mind from the National Candle Association.

Never leave a burning candle unattended.

Don't burn a candle all the way down - leave a couple inches of wax.

Never try to move a candle when it's burning, and don't try to move a container candle if it still has melted wax.

On average, there are 25 home candle fires reported each day.

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