Minnesota fire deaths jump from last year; Austin sees first fire death in recent years

Published 10:15 am Wednesday, December 16, 2015

By MPR News and Austin Daily Herald

Fifty-one people — including one in Austin — have died in Minnesota fires this year compared to 43 this time last year, and some of the most dangerous weeks for residential blazes still lie ahead.

Three deaths in as many days pushed the state’s fire fatalities to the highest number since 2011, the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office said in a statement Tuesday.

Email newsletter signup

According to the St. Paul Fire Department, there have been only three years since 2000 with more fire deaths: 2011 (56), 2002 (64) and 1999 (60).

Austin saw its first fire death in recent years on Thanksgiving Day when Jorge Abeyta, 43, died from smoke inhalation. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

The fire marshal’s office is particularly concerned as the Christmas holiday approaches. It noted the three leading causes of Minnesota fires are all holiday staples: cooking, heating and open flames. Nearly half of holiday decoration fires happen because decorations are placed too close to a heat source.

Among its safety tips, the agency urged people to use flameless candles when decorating for the holidays, never leave food cooking on the stove unattended and bake using a timer so as not to lose track of time.