While NYS fire safety regulations permit the use of open flame/candles in certain limited situations, it is always preferable to use electronic devices to simulate an open flame/candle, or select an external/outside venue for the event. If neither alternative is acceptable, the following open flame/candle rules and procedures shall apply.
General Open Flame/Candle Safety Rules
  • In accordance with College policy and NYS fire safety regulations, open flames/candles (or comparable devices like incense, sparklers, etc.) are prohibited inside all College facilities unless they qualify for an exception.
  • To qualify for an exception, the event must be religious or ceremonial in nature (as defined below). No exception may be granted for open flames/candles in any residence hall, regardless of the nature of the event.
  • Qualifying and excepted events must have at least one fire extinguisher trained College employee to stand as fire watch for the duration of the event. If the event is large (>50 attendees), or involves hand-held vigil candles in any quantity, there must be at least two fire extinguisher trained College employees present for the entire event.
  • At no time may an approved open flame/candle event be held in a building with a fire safety system impairment. All fire safety detection or suppression systems must be fully operable for the duration of the event.
  • Any approved open flame/candle event will require Campus Safety notification in advance of event occurrence, and must conform to the qualifying candle criteria noted below.
Religious or Ceremonial Events Qualifying for the Exception

In order for the event to qualify for this exception, it must be:

  • A recognized and departmentally sanctioned religious event, or
  • A recognized and departmentally sanctioned ceremony of substantial cultural or social significance.
  • Division officers shall be responsible for determining and authorizing which religious or ceremonial events will qualify for this exception.
Qualifying Candle Criteria
  • Qualifying candle use shall conform with the below (other candle types not described must be approved or are assumed to be prohibited).
    • Free-standing candelabra or chimney candles must be staged on non-combustible material or surfaces, be securely fastened to prevent overturning, and be located at least 10 feet from event occupants or other combustible material like drapes or curtains.
    • Tea-light or floating candles in non-combustible holders must be of the type that will return to an upright position after being tilted to an angle of 45 degrees from vertical, and must be recessed at least 1 inch below the upper lip of the holder.
    • Hand-held vigil candles are especially dangerous because they are often handled by event participants (including children) who are not fire safety trained. While these types of candles are strongly discouraged, if they are necessary and approved for an event, at least two fire extinguisher trained College employees are required as fire watch.  Hand-held vigil candles may never be passed from one person to the other while lit, and should never be disposed of in the regular trash. Collect and reuse for future events, or collect in a non-combustible/metal container for disposal at a later time.
Emergency Considerations
  • In the event of an open flame/candle fire, the event organizer(s) shall immediately initiate both an emergency evacuation and the notification of Campus Safety before considering whether fire extinguisher use is appropriate.
  • When fire extinguisher trained College employees are assigned fire watch duties, the fire extinguisher(s) shall be immediately available to them and “at the ready” for use as needed.


Brian Hansen

Director of Environmental Protection, Safety and Sustainability

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