Yes, My Skull Candle Melted

Amy, who had a dangerous soot spread through her house after a candleholder melted, has a few responses to reader comments.

    “First of all, I didn’t knowingly leave the house with the candle lit. I forgot. My son’s school is less than a 1/4 mile from my house, and Shaw’s is about 1 mile. It was a quick trip.

    Secondly, the fire department, Fire Marshal, and Insurance company (and Adjuster) all know I left my house. It is still deemed an accident and Insurance is still going to compensate.

    Luckily, our house has 2 levels and the second (lower) level was closed off and is practically soot-free, enabling us to continue to safely stay here while the repairs are being performed.

    Finally, it was not dim-witted of me to mistake the candleholder for glass. The candleholder is glass-like enough that we all considered it a glass product until the fire occurred.”

Her second comment is the reason why we posted the letter. The ferocity of the comments is why we love ya, but we think there could be a little less eating of our own. It’s easier to pee in someone’s shoes than walk in ‘em.

Amy now has a login and is posting under bartamy in the comments. Say hi.

Comments

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  1. —BEGIN SNARK—
    Well, if it was just a quick trip then I guess that changes everything.
    —END SNARK—

    Glad to hear your insurance company is going to help you out.

  2. It strikes me as dangerous to make a candle holder of any kind out of anything that can’t withstand heat, let alone something that would release noxious fumes if exposed to flames… but that’s just me.

  3. legotech says:

    Sorry, I have to vote with the Amy’s fault crowd. You screwed up. You left the house with a lit candle burning. You are lucky that you have a house at all, you are lucky that your cat just has dirty feet and possible respiratory problems and not first degree burns all over from burning to death in the fire caused by YOU LEAVING THE HOUSE WITH A CANDLE BURNING.

    Oh did we mention YOU LEFT THE HOUSE while an OPEN flame was actively burning in your house?

    Blame RH all you want for whatever you can think of, but its your fault. If you were home you would have been able to put out the candle when a problem occurred, if you were home you would have been able to save the cat if he knocked over the candle because that could just as easily have happened.

    I was a volunteer firefighter for many years. Blame whomever you please, but then look in the mirror when you are done and see who is at fault.

  4. legotech says:

    Well, that was odd, thats my comment from the last thread.

    My actual comment was:

    The Hurricane Katrina victims can’t get the insurance companies to pay, but she CAUSES the damage herself and they reward her with 17K.

    There is just so much wrong with the insurance industry I don’t know where to start

  5. AcilletaM says:

    It’s the comment problems. Your comment doesn’t seem to post right away and gets stuck in a queue and doesn’t post until you make a second comment and they both show up. Instant double post (in most cases) and yahtzee!

  6. Kornkob says:

    I’ve still not seen any description of how the fire progresed. Amy has talked about what happened before teh fire and after but little discussion about the series of events during the fire.

    It is possible that there’s some flaw in those candle holders but we’ve seen no description of how the fire was caused by them. The proximity of plastic to flame is not enough– far too many examples of plastics near heat sources exist.

    On the subject of ‘she left’ if, in fact, she hadn’t left since we dont’ knwo how fast this fire occurred we really can’t judge whether her presence would have made a difference. If the plastic burst into flame with little or no warning then being home would have made no difference. Again– since we don’t ahve a description of a progression of the fire we can’t say definitively that there’s anything she could have done about it.

    That’s not to say I believe it’s nor her fault. Nor do I mean to suggest that I believe it is. I believe we don’t yet have enough information to attribute specific points of blame.

  7. Yes, but those of us who are really gifted can pee in other people’s shoes while they’re still wearing them.

    It’s an honest mistake, and one I myself have been guilty of (leaving the house with candle burning). Luckily I wasn’t using a plastic skull candle holder.

    Just be glad your cat didn’t set itself on fire and then run through the house setting other things on fire…don’t laugh…it happens.

  8. The Hurricane Katrina victims can’t get the insurance companies to pay, but she CAUSES the damage herself and they reward her with 17K.

    There is just so much wrong with the insurance industry I don’t know where to start

    Legotech, if I have a car accident because I illegally changed lanes does that mean the insurance company shouldn’t pay? No, because that’s what I have insurance for. They will just increase my rate, or drop me if I become too much of a liability. Insurance is for this very type of thing: Accidents, whether caused by acts of god, or human error. It’s not like she torched her house for the ins. money.

  9. siarna says:

    This is Amy, the unwitting culprit.

    Kornkob, I can’t accurately describe what happened during the fire because (as has been repeated ’round the consumerist world in a surreal internet version of “Telephone”) I was not here.

    The accepted theory is that the candle flame ignited the candleholder and created an almost napalm-like effect. This resulted in a complete meltdown of the candleholder, which melted into the carpet. Note the pictures of the ceiling with web-like black ‘cobwebs’ – that is also the burned candle holder.

    Anyway, that is the Fire Marshall’s best guess. If the Legotech volunteer firefighter has a different view, given his expertise, that would be interesting (and definitely entertaining, given his proclivity to tangents) to read.

  10. K-T says:

    I don’t recall her saying anything about wanting RH to compensate her. It seems to me that she was just letting them know that there was a problem with the merchandise. RH should handle the problem, I am sure Amy isn’t the only person who purchased this item thinking it was glass. It doesn’t even have to be a big fix. I am sure that something as simple as putting it out there that these items are in fact made of plastic, and should not have a candle burning in it for longer than, say 30 minutes (the time frame Amy knows for a fact that there was no problem) should do the trick. The consumer has a right to know, that is the bottom line.

    And for everyone who is admonishing her for leaving the house with a stupid little tea light lit; seriously get over it. She lives in a two story house; the stupid candle holder could have gone at anytime. For instance, if she ran upstairs to use the restroom, there is a chance it could have started to melt then, and what could she have done about it? Nothing, at least not until she got downstairs. Even then, though the damage would have been significantly less, it doesn’t change the fact that the candle holders were faulty/made from an incorrect material; however you want to put it.

    Just to go a step further, I wish you would all stop acting like you have never accidentally left the house with the coffee pot on. I refuse to believe that not one of the commenters reprimanding Amy has gotten up late, ironed their button-down for work and rushed out of the house without turning off the iron. Who here has not run out of the house, and had to think twice about whether or not the stove or oven is still on? I firmly believe that EVERY one of you at one point in your life made the same mistake that Amy made. I have. I left my coffee pot on from morning until I went home for lunch. The only difference here, is that unlike Amy, not only were we lucky to not suffer damage to our abodes, but we also did not make the mistake with a faulty product.

  11. Ben Popken says:

    re: double comments… all you need to do is refresh the page to see your comment, as per this post.

  12. DeeJayQueue says:

    Just because we may or may not have left the kettle on or left a candle burning downstairs doesn’t make it a good idea, or acceptable behavior. We all have to be responsible people and own up to our actions. She made a mistake, forgot she left a candle burning and ran some errands. This mistake came back to bite her in the form of a scorched and toxic house.

    The point is that we-none of us-should be doing things like this. It’s irresponsible and accidents like the one Amy had are a direct consequence of it. Candleholders aren’t made to contain the heat and melted wax of candles in the event that you let them burn down further than they should, they rely on the fact that you shouldn’t be leaving them unattended (this means to run upstairs to the bathroom too) to keep them from melting or bursting into toxic flame.

    When we make a mistake and leave something on at home and come back to find that nothing happened, we dodged a bullet. Hopefully we learn by way of anxiety at the time and embarrassment after the fact that we shouldn’t do that anymore, and we can move on as better and wiser people. Amy wasn’t so lucky, she caught that bullet. Things could have been worse but I bet she pays better attention to what is and is not burning in her house in the future.

  13. …all you need to do is refresh the page to see your comment

    Sometimes I leave the thread completely and come back and sometimes I have to wait for another comment to be posted (that seems to force them to show up).

    What I’ve started doing to prevent double posting is to copy my post before I submit. The system won’t let you post the exact same message twice so if you just paste what you’ve already typed in an attempt to re-submit a ‘lost’ message, it will tell you that comment has already been posted.

  14. moejuda says:

    DeeJay, why does that get the faulty product off the hook? If she had been napping when the damned thing caught on fire, or even looking the other way to watch a TV, would you be admonishing her? Should she have been staring at the candle the entire time it was lit, eagerly waiting while holding a fire extinguisher?

    Candle holders shouldn’t burn. How is that fact getting lost here?

  15. Well, if it was just a quick trip then I guess that changes everything.

    She was responding to the comments where people didn’t believe she was only gone for half an hour.

    Just to go a step further, I wish you would all stop acting like you have never accidentally left the house with the coffee pot on.

    Anyone else having flashbacks of the Boiled Walmart Baby thread?

  16. K-T says:

    Amen moejuda!

  17. cudthecrud says:

    Anyone who has ever sprayed charcoal lighter fluid into a citronella candle (anyone out there?) should know that a pool of wax just needs a little accelerant to completely catch on fire. If the plastic was a little too flammable once melted, the whole thing would turn into a crazy burning mess that would be tough to put out without either smothering it somehow or fire extinguisher/garden hose tactics. And plastic burns nasty black. Flammable candle holders are not good things.

  18. So that’s why my shoes were wet!

  19. Jesse McBesse says:

    can’t we all just get along? jesus. the opinions expressed about the damn candle holder are not personal attacks on anyone. now let’s all hold hands and bitch about walmart.

    :]

  20. AcilletaM says:

    Who says candleholders don’t burn? We are all these reinforced steel candleholders everybody else seems to be able to purchase? They sure as hell aren’t selling only these at Target or Wal-Mart! WTF? You want a candleholder for $3.99, guess what? It’s going to be a polymer of some kind! Get over it. A candleholder holds a candle, that’s all. It doesn’t protect your house from the flame. If you expect that, you’re expecting too much from your sale item.

  21. AcilletaM says:

    And my post appears……NOW!

  22. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    …And why *shouldn’t* Amy pursue RH for compensation? If a company’s absurdly faulty product cost me $17,000 in damage, I’d be making some noise! It may not be worth the hassle to sue them, but demanding an apology and/or assurance that the product has been pulled off the shelves is thoroughly reasonable.

    And the Amy-blamers are being idiots. Amy’s culpability in this is minor, maybe even negligible. She made a common, understandable, barely-even-dangerous accidental error of the sort that everybody makes now and again, whereas RH is guilty of the kind of negligence that carries jail-time and six-figure fines. To claim that the one negates the other is just stupid. If Amy (or the insurance company) did sue RH over this, the fact that she wasn’t home for less than half an hour when the candleholder caught fire would barely even damage her case — it would look bad, but in negligence cases it matters what the “weight” of each party’s responsibility is, and in this case it’s clearly way more than half RH’s fault.

    Wherever the idea came from that only Perfect Angels have the right to safe products, good service or the benefits of the insurance policies they purchase, can we send it back now? Products, services and insurance policies are FOR HUMAN BEINGS, and humans make mistakes. Any corporation who doesn’t like that is welcome to crack open the Robot market and leave people alone.

  23. lpranal says:

    I’m having a really hard time trying to see the “blame Amy” side of this argument, try as I might. The simple fact of the matter is that if a product is going to be used near open flame (in this case, directly UNDER one) that it ought to be designed to at least offer a small cushion of safety just in case something happened. Would you knowingly buy a candle holder that had even a small chance of causing the volcanic display seen above? I wouldn’t.
    I’d much rather buy something made out of glass or metal- oops, looks like that decision is harder than it seems to make.

    The presumption isn’t that you’re buying something that will will withstand a nuclear holocaust, but that you’re not buying something that will actually facilitate a fire. Assuming there was no clear indication that this product was made out of plastic or anything flammable, (aside from a disclaimer which would appear on virtually anything even remotely related to an open flame, which no one actually reads due to their ubiquity) I’d say it’s a good bit of the blame falls squarely on whoever made / designed this thing.

  24. AcidReign says:

    …..Ultimately, a lot of candle-holders aren’t safe. I burn candles every night (3-4 times a week) I get to eat with my family. And I like tea lights and incense, too. Metal holders rust, crystal ones crack. None last forever if used. If it happens to fail while a candle’s burning in it, you get wax and fire on whatever’s under it.

    …..You just can’t leave anything like that burning unattended. And I think everyone who’s still reading this thread now knows that!

    …..We had a crystal candle holder [which was holding a short, burning, almost gone candle] pop and shatter, spewing sharp, hot wax-covered shards at everyone at the table that night. And it was Lennox, too! Not some cheap Chinese model! We’ve shelved the nice holders, and rely on cheap BB&B ones for actual use, since we now know they wear out.

    …..Did I mention that I’m a big pyromaniac? I love fire. And no, I’ve never considered not burning candles. LED’s are no fun…

  25. Triteon says:

    Are we still talking about this?

  26. Mike_ says:

    Shame on the manufacturer for making this time bomb, and a wag of the finger to the retailer for selling it. That said, I’m siding with the “blame Amy” crowd, as this is still clearly her own fault.

    If a child accidentally sets his house on fire, and later explains, “I just like how fire looks”, he should probably be punished. Fire is not a toy, and children lack the ability to use it safely. It’s not the match’s fault.

    Presumably, Amy keeps candles around because she likes how they look. They serve no practical purpose. Call it “decorating” or “setting the mood”, but really it’s just playing with fire. (Adults can normally do this safely.) She violated the cardinal rule of fire safety, and almost paid with her home and all of her possessions.

    Junior loses his Xbox privileges for a few months. Amy gets to lash out at the retailer and cash an insurance check. Negligence is an explanation, but not an excuse. I’d like to see her take more responsibility for leaving the open flame unattended.

    Next time, try saying, “Yeah, I’m an idiot for setting my house on fire, but candle holders really shouldn’t burn like this.” That way, we could talk about the unsafe product, instead of the unsafe operator who blames the unsafe product.

  27. Metschick says:

    She made a common, understandable, barely-even-dangerous accidental error of the sort that everybody makes now and again

    I understand what you’re saying, but “barely even dangerous”? A lot of college dorm fires start this way, and sadly, many end in death or serious injury.

    Just because the product is faulty doesn’t mean we shouldn’t exercise care when using them.

  28. Ishmael says:

    Hi, Amy!

  29. lpranal says:

    Ok, so who wants to actually address the guts of the issue here- Amy was sold something that was more flammable than it appeared to be / was led to believe?

  30. siarna says:

    Next time, try saying, “Yeah, I’m an idiot for setting my house on fire, but candle holders really shouldn’t burn like this.”

    Actually, I have said this. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough earlier:

    I’m an idiot for leaving without remembering to extinguish the flame first.

    That said…

    I don’t expect RH to compensate me $17,000. I don’t expect anything, actually. They can choose to refund my napalm-making skull candleholders and send a conciliatory bland sympathy note if they see fit, but otherwise… nah. I don’t see a lottery-style cash-out coming my way. (And that goes for my Home Owners claim as well.)

  31. legotech says:

    Wow, defensive much?

    How about you stop assuming I’m a guy and I’ll stop thinking of you as a dimwitted housewife.

    You know…you assumed the skull was glass too, maybe you should just learn to stop making assumptions and find out the facts before you act.

    Sorry you are getting dumped on, guess you figured we’d all be on your side against the horrible corporation. Wow, another assumption…I’m seeing a pattern here.

    As for the ‘tangents’ I guess I wasn’t supposed to say the insurance industry is all screwed up? Is that the tangent? Because everything else I’ve said has been directly related to YOU *LEAVING* the house with a candle burning.

    Just because your insurance pays and the investigator says its an accident, doesn’t mean you didn’t screw up. Just as someone else pointed out, rear end someone and the insurance will still fix your car even tho you are at fault.

    Regina

  32. Jupiter Jones says:

    The people here who are insisting that it is ok that this device meant to contain a flaming substance is itself flammable are idiots. Things designed to hold flammable substances should not be flammable. Do you want your fireplace made out of plastic? How about we make your stove out of PVC plastic? Come on, you’re just being jerks to this woman. She made a mistake leaving the candle burning, and she’s admitted it. She is at fault too. Now you’re just being assholes to her. It doesn’t mean that these jerks selling flammable candle holders aren’t endangering people.

    Also, all the people saying that lots of candle holders are flammable, so that makes this candle holder being flammable ok should sit back and think about what they said for a while. Good lord.

    Let’s go over it again – devices meant to hold fire should not be able to catch on fire. They should especially not be made to look like they’re fireproof.

    Legotech – “You know…you assumed the skull was glass too, maybe you should just learn to stop making assumptions and find out the facts before you act.” Gee, I guess she must have left her gas spectrometer at home when she went shopping. Why are you being such a dick to her? You call HER defensive?

  33. Mike_ says:

    bartamy, your entire original submission was about your letter to Restoration Hardware quoting their guarantee and telling them you’re never going to shop there again. And then your follow-up submission offered conflicting excuses (“I forgot” and “I was only going to be gone for a few minutes”). I believe your most recent comment in this thread is the first time you’ve acknowledged you may have had something to do with this fire.

    Being irresponsible is far more dangerous than even the most flammable candle holder. Forgetting to put out the candle is no small thing. You’re lucky this is a post on The Consumerist, and not a column in the Obituary section. If this happened at night, you would have been one broken smoke alarm away from a Darwin Award.

    Your letter to Restoration Hardware was out of line. If your TV bursts into flames, you don’t chew out Best Buy for selling you a faulty television. You go after the manufacturer. (The exception would be if this stupid skull thing was sold under the Restoration Hardware brand, in which case you should go after them.)

    I think we’re all in agreement about this candle holder being a menace to consumers everywhere. What I don’t like is the way you’ve framed your complaint. Here’s what I suggest:

    1) Retract your letter to Restoration Hardware. Your expectation of a “conciliatory bland sympathy note” is unreasonable. They don’t owe you anything. In fact, you probably owe them an apology for trying to drag their name through the mud.

    2) Try to make contact with someone at Restoration Hardware who can help you identify the exact origin of the candle holder, and ensure it is no longer on any of their stores’ shelves.

    3) Notify the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

    As always, you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar. With a better attitude, you might have been able to score some concessions from Restoration Hardware. Instead, all you got is a round of scorn from this community.

  34. gypsychk says:

    Some of us in the “blame Amy” crowd aren’t trying to be rude. I’m actually sympathetic, if you can believe that. I just don’t happen to believe that this particular accident is the fault of the manufacturer or the retailer. Candles are inherently unsafe; this is why we learn that even the best designed candles and holders shouldn’t be left unattended.

    And note: “unattended” means you’re not attending to the open flame. Leaving for 1/2 minute even to use the bathroom is leaving the candle unattended. Going upstairs for a few minutes is leaving the candle unattended. Leaving the room to answer the door is leaving the candle unattended. I know we all do it, but such actions are technically unsafe use of the product.

    I think it would be very difficult to prove this candle holder was defective. It’s been pointed out repeatedly that nobody was there, so we don’t know what happened. It wouldn’t surprise me if it were, but can a product be pulled on suspicion of defect? Not trying to be a wise ass; I’m really asking.

  35. Mike_ says:

    I’m not trying to be rude. It comes naturally.

  36. And then your follow-up submission offered conflicting excuses (“I forgot” and “I was only going to be gone for a few minutes”).

    No, that was in response to the comment where someone doubted she was only gone from the house for half an hour.

    I believe your most recent comment in this thread is the first time you’ve acknowledged you may have had something to do with this fire.

    No, in her letter to the company she specifically says her complaint is about the toxic, slimy soot that’s all over her home and not the fire.

    I think we’re all in agreement about this candle holder being a menace to consumers everywhere.

    No we’re not:
    AcilletaM says: Who says candleholders don’t burn? We[re] are all these reinforced steel candleholders everybody else seems to be able to purchase?

    Instead, all you got is a round of scorn from this community.
    Several commenters agree that candle holders shouldn’t melt or be made of materials that become toxic when exposed to heat.

  37. Anonymous says:

    test comment

  38. laurenbove says:

    Hi there. I hope all is well by now.

    I have the offending candle holder in question and I just love it, love it, love it.

    When I bought it, I believe it stated only for use with tealight candles. I think that would have kept anything harmful from happening.

    I’m using mine now, and this report has made the candle holder even spoookier than before!

    ttfn