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Eight people died in Minnesota fires last month – and careless smoking was the likely cause in four of those deaths.

As a matter of fact, careless smoking is typically the leading cause of fatal fires each year in Minnesota.

According to the State Fire Marshal’s office, which recently released fire statistics for the past decade, there were only three fire deaths in the state by the end of January last year, and a total of 42 deaths for the year (a preliminary total, according to the statistics).

Those 42 deaths represent a 14 percent increase from the year before.

Careless smoking fire deaths:
Seniors most likely victims

The average age of victims who died in careless-smoking-related fires between 2009 and 2019 was 61.

Early investigations into this year’s eight deaths – a pace that would produce almost 100 deaths for 2020 – show that seven victims were older than 50.

Between six and 11 people have died in careless smoking-related fires annually since 2009 in Minnesota. At least seven died from fires caused by careless smoking last year.

Careless smoking fire deaths:
Avoiding careless smoking fires

The State Fire Marshal’s office released these tips to prevent a careless smoking-related fire:

  • If you are going to smoke, do so outside and then extinguish the cigarette in a sturdy ashtray filled with sand or water.
  • NEVER discard a cigarette in a potted plant, leaves, mulch or other vegetation. Discarding a cigarette in vegetation is a recipe for disaster.
  • Do not smoke while on oxygen or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“I was a smoker for 30 years. I know how hard it is to quit,” Jim Smith, the State Fire Marshal, said in a release. “But it’s not hard to smoke outside and properly extinguish your cigarettes in a sturdy container filled with sand or water. It’s not hard to talk to your loved ones who smoke and ask them to do these things.”

Careless smoking fire deaths continue to plague Minnesota

Eight people died in Minnesota fires in January, and careless smoking – typically the leading cause of fatal fires in the state yearly – was to blame for four of those deaths.

Careless smoking fire deaths:
Average of 47 from all causes

Fire deaths from all causes since 2009:

  • 2019: 42 (preliminary)
  • 2018: 36
  • 2017: 68
  • 2016: 43
  • 2015: 57
  • 2014: 44
  • 2013: 44
  • 2012: 50
  • 2011: 56
  • 2010: 39
  • 2009: 35

The 10-year total through 2018 was 472, an average of 47 a year.

The leading cause of fire deaths in each of these years was careless smoking.

Careless smoking fire deaths:
Fire-prevention advice

About 67 percent of victims killed in 2019 fires were over the age of 50, and there weren’t any working smoke alarms in 12 percent of the homes where people were killed. The numbers will be confirmed later in 2020, after hospitals in the state report the last of their data to the Minnesota Department of Health.

When speaking to the media about the statistics, Smith also reminded Minnesotans that they should not leave space heaters, candles, or food cooking on the stovetop unattended.

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

National fire prevention officials recommend that homeowners conduct monthly tests on smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and also create a family escape plan in the event of an emergency.

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