A total of 42 people died last year in fires in Minnesota — a 14% increase over the 37 fire deaths in 2018, according to preliminary numbers from the Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD). Fire death numbers will become final later this year once Minnesota hospital officials report their information to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Smoking is the leading cause of fatal fires in Minnesota. At least seven people died in smoking-related fires in 2019. That number could rise as investigators continue determining fire causes. There were 94 people who died in smoking-related fires between 2009 and 2019.

The SFMD offers people to follow these tips to prevent a smoking-related fire:

• Smoke outside and extinguish cigarettes in a sturdy ashtray filled with sand or water.

• Do not discard cigarettes in potted plants, leaves, mulch or other vegetation.

• Do not smoke while on oxygen.

• Avoid smoking while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

2019 fire death statistics

People age 50 or older accounted for 67% of people killed.

There were no working smoke alarms in 12% of the homes where people died.

The leading cause of fire deaths each year since 2009 was careless smoking.

The fire death rate in Minnesota has dropped 63% since the 1970s. Numbers below are deaths per 100,000 people:

• 1970s — 2.45

• 1980s — 1.86

• 1990s — 1.26

• 2000s — 0.91

• 2010s — 0.90

Fire prevention tips

“There are many little things we can do to prevent a devastating fire from happening in our homes,” State Fire Marshal Jim Smith said. “It is important to practice fire prevention and safety every day.”

Minnesotans can keep themselves and their families safe by following these fire prevention and safety tips.  

While cooking, never leave food cooking on the stovetop unattended. Stay and look while you cook. Remember to keep items like oven mitts, aprons and paper towels 3 feet from heat sources in the kitchen.

Keep space heaters 3 feet from anything combustible. Do not leave space heaters unattended. Turn them off while you’re sleeping. Plug space heaters directly into the wall, not an extension cord or power strip.

Have a furnace and chimney inspected annually.

Keep candles at least 3 feet from anything that can burn and never leave a candle unattended. Use flameless candles instead of real candles.

Regarding smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, test your smoke and CO alarms monthly. Change the batteries at least once a year. Fires double in size every 60 seconds. A smoke alarm can give you the time you need to escape. Install smoke alarms in bedrooms, outside sleeping areas and on every level of the home. CO alarms should be installed within 10 feet of each sleeping room or inside each sleeping room.

Create a family escape plan and practice it twice a year with everyone in your home. Start by drawing a map of your home that shows two ways out of every room. Make sure those ways out are easy to open (make sure windows aren’t painted shut, for example), and practice using different ones. If you have a multi-level home, consider putting an escape ladder near each window so you can get to the ground safely in an emergency. Designate a meeting place outside, such as a tree or utility pole.

Copyright © 2019 at Sun Newspapers/ APG Media of East Central Minnesota. Digital dissemination of this content without prior written consent is a violation of federal law and may be subject to legal action.

Load comments