Chanukah candles are beautiful but they also present a fire risk. In recognition that the observance of Chanukah makes December a time in which Jewish homes are particularly susceptible to unwanted blazes, the Orthodox Union has announced that December once again will be OU Fire Safety Month. The initiative is part of the OU’s “Safe Homes, Safe Shuls, Safe Schools” program.
This year, the festival of Chanukah will be celebrated from Tuesday evening, December 16-Wednesday, December 24.
The OU has posted a series of fire prevention guides on its website, http://www.ou.org/holidays/chanukah/chanukah-safety/, including the following:
- Chanukah Burn and Scald Prevention tips, which include not only candles, but the making of latkes as well; it advises women to be particularly careful of their sleeves and hair when lighting and blessing candles;
- Torah Tots/Play it Safe for Chanukah, which has a variety of safety tips, including keeping a 10 lb. ABS fire extinguisher near the kitchen, away from the stove;
- Fire Safety for Jewish Observances, which among other items advises that candles should be kept at least four feet away from curtains, draperies, blinds, kitchen cabinets and bedding;
- A link to the New York City Fire Department’s fire safety information website;
- Who by Fire: Helping Burn Victims and Their Families, with a special section for Chanukah; and
- Home Safety – Ten Hot Tips to Make Your Home a No Burn Zone, including developing an emergency evacuation plan.
In addition, the OU has provided guidelines from Rabbi Hershel Schachter, OU Halachic Decisor, on Chanukah fire safety. In accordance with Jewish law (halachah) Rabbi Schachter declared:
“If one is not going to be home while the Chanukah candles are lit, it is better that they not be lit, but one can light later in the evening if they will be home. There should always be someone watching or near the candles. In terms of using an electric menorah, you shouldn’t say a bracha (blessing) on it, although you are able to say a bracha on electric (incandescent) lights for Shabbat and Yom Tov candles. When lighting in a hotel room, one should make sure he has half an hour to let the candles burn, and then blow them out when he has to leave.”
Wishing all a happy and safe Chanukah.