London Fire Brigade

Child burns victim launches Christmas fire safety campaign

20 December 2010

Dorah Mokoena, who is thought to be the most burnt girl in the world and Sizwe Hlope presented a candle to London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, to launch London Fire Brigade’s new Christmas safety campaign, ‘so beautiful, so lethal’ on Monday 20 December.

Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, Ron Dobson, Dorah Mokoena and Sizwe Hlope together with Bronwen Jones, Director of Children of Fire launch a campaign to raise awareness of the risk of fire from candles. Sixteen year old South African Dorah joined Ron Dobson at the Brigade’s headquarters to launch the campaign, which aims to highlight the dangers of candles at Christmas time. Her adopted brother, ten year old Sizwe Hlope was intentionally burned when he was a toddler.

At the age of six months Dorah was severely burnt by a fire started by a candle in the squatter camp she was living in. Dorah lost her nose, eyelids, lips, bone in her forehead and hands and much of the rest of her body was damaged during attempts to repair her burns. In 1998, following an appeal for donations by the charity Children of Fire to help alleviate her suffering, Dorah was flown to the UK where she underwent extensive surgery to repair some of the damage done to her body.

London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, said: “Dorah is an extremely courageous young woman and it is an absolute tragedy that she was so seriously injured by fire. I am so pleased she helped us to highlight the fire dangers posed by candles. If we can prevent another child from being injured, or even killed by a fire caused by a candle then Dora’s suffering won’t have been in vain.”

The latest statistics on candles show that:

  • Around 1300 home fires are caused by candles in the UK each year.
  • 18 people died in fires caused by candles in 2008 ( taken from the most recent national government fire stats).
  • Around 1 in 3 people who is injured in a fire at home is injured by a fire caused by a candle. This makes candles the second highest cause of fire injuries, after cigarette lighters.
  • 3 out of 4 candle fires is categorised as severe, causing significant damage to property or injuries to people. 
  • There are candle fires almost every day of the year in London.
  • There are more candle fires in December than in any other month.

The aim of the Brigade’s ‘so beautiful, so lethal’ campaign is to advise people to follow three top candle safety tips in order to prevent a disaster at Christmas:

1)     Always place your candles in a fire resistant holder.

2)     Never leave candles unattended, not even for a moment.

3)     Never leave candles too close to items like Christmas trees, curtains or clothing.

ENDS

Notes to editors

For more information, or to attend the event, please contact the London Fire Brigade press office on 020 8536 5922.

For a photo of Dorah please call the press office on the above number.

About Dorah and Fire Children

Dorah’s story and those of the other children who have similarly been helped, can be found at www.firechildren.org. Please be advised that some of the photographs of burns victims on the site could cause some distress.

Dorah will join London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson at London Fire Brigade HQ, Winchester House, 94a Southwark Bridge Road, London SE1 0EG on Monday the 20th December 2010, between 11am-12pm. There will be an opportunity for media interviews and photographs.

Using candles safely

  • Always place your candles/tea lights in a suitable fire resistant candleholder.
  • Make sure the candleholder holds the candle/tea light firmly and is on a flat and stable surface to stop it falling over.
  • Always put the candleholder on a heat resistant surface like a ceramic plate (tea lights can reach temperatures of up to 344C and can melt plastic surfaces such as the top of a television or the side of a bath).
  • Always leave at least 10cm (four inches) between burning candles/tea lights and never place them under shelves or other enclosed spaces.
  • Keep candles/tea lights, matches and lighters out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Keep candles/tea lights away from curtains, furniture and anything else that can catch fire. Keep loose clothing and hair away from candles/tea lights when they are lit.
  • Always put candles/tea lights out and leave to cool down before you try to move them. Always put candles/tea lights out when you are out of the room and when you go to sleep.
  • Use a candle ‘snuffer’ or a metal spoon to put the candle/tea light out – it is safer than blowing them out which can send sparks and hot wax flying.

See more information on candle safety.