Christmas candle fire leaves family homeless

Christmas may be long over but in some Swiss homes the decorations have been slow coming down, including one in the canton of Bern, where extending the holiday season had disastrous consequences.

Christmas candle fire leaves family homeless
Photo: AFP

A family of six was forced to flee their house in the village of Niederwangen, near the town of Köniz, after a fire believed to have been caused by a candle on a Christmas tree broke out, cantonal police said on Tuesday.

Police received a call about the blaze on Monday at 6.40pm and 50 firefighters from Köniz responded.

One woman suffered minor injuries, while the other five people in the home, including three children, remained unhurt, police said in a news release.

The family’s house is now uninhabitable and the damage is estimated at several hundred thousand francs, the release said.

The regional prosecutor’s office is clarifying the cause of the fire.

Every year, more than 1,000 fires occur in Swiss homes during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays because of candles that escape surveillance, the Swiss centre for accident prevention (BFU) says.

Citing information from the national information centre for the prevention of fires (BFB), the BFU says candles represent a greater risk than household appliances, fireplaces or stoves.

Despite the danger, many Swiss refuse to give up the tradition of yuletide candles, including those on decorated trees and Advent wreaths, made of evergreen branches.

The BFU says that strings of electric lights and electric candles offer a safer alternative to regular candles.

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