Due to the many medical emergencies and tragedies resulting from laxity around candles and kitchen safety on Chanukah, United Hatzalah of Israel issued a number of safety tips for families to implement in order to avoid situations in which family members, especially young children suffer injuries or worse on the holiday. The recommendations of the organization are as follows:
- Use a special location and apparatus to light the candles. Many times fires occur due to the use of makeshift menorahs. Please use a proper stable menorah and stable table or shelf and avoid proximity to any flammable items, including remaining oil or other candles, as well as drapes, curtains, books, or clothing.
- It is also recommended to have the Menorah set up on either a stable stone or metal object underneath to prevent a fire from spreading as a result of a fallen candle or oil. Placing a sheet of tin foil underneath the menorah is also recommended.
- Lighting the Menorah in a glass case that can prevent wind from blowing the fire or candles over is also recommended.
- Don’t leave menorahs unsupervised especially with young children in the house. The Holiday is a time of joy, in an effort to prevent tragic occurrences, an adult should supervise the area in which the menorah is lit and small children should be warned about the dangers of approaching the menorah or playing in its vicinity.
- Always keep Menorahs, candles, oil, and matches out of the reach of children and make sure that children do not approach the Menorahs during the entire time that they are burning.
- Do not allow children to light menorahs unassisted. Additionally, make sure to tie back any hair that may catch on fire as this can lead to serious burns on the face and scalp in seconds.
- Children should be kept far away from boiling or hot oil in the kitchen or any other hot liquids to prevent serious and painful burns from taking place.
- Use the rear burners on the stovetop to fry latkes or sufganiyot in order to prevent hot oil from splashing on children and to prevent children from coming into contact with pot handles that may extend over the edge of the stove and result in the pot or pan from tipping over and spilling the hot oil on the child.
President and Founder of United Hatzalah Eli Beer said: “Every year on Chanukah United Hatzalah volunteers are dispatched to far too many incidents of fires and injuries resulting from Chanukah candles being lit in dangerous locations or carelessly being left on their own without supervision, as well as hundreds of emergencies relating to burns from either candles or hot oil spilling on children and adults alike. Sadly, too many of these incidents have ended with people losing their lives and turning the holiday into a day of tragedy. In an effort to bring public awareness to the dangers inherent in the festival of lights, the organization has issued a list of safety tips and warnings aimed at helping parents avoid the dangers and prevent the injuries from occurring in the first place. On behalf of the more than 6,000 volunteers in United Hatzalah, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of Am Yisrael, a happy and safe Chanukah.
Is there a sound Halachic reason to favor oil over candles? I think candles are materially safer: if they fall or are knocked over, the flames and fuel generally do not spread as far.
And remember: a fire endangers those in the area, plus the volunteers and others who come to put it out and protect the people in the vicinity of the fire.