Fire deaths drop 47 percent in 2018

Published 9:30 am Saturday, January 12, 2019

ST. PAUL — Thirty-six people died last year in fires, a 47 percent drop from 2017 when 68 people died, according to preliminary numbers released by the Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD).

Last year’s drop in fire deaths comes on the heels of a particularly deadly 2017, which saw the most fire deaths in Minnesota since 1995.

Fire death numbers become final once Minnesota hospital officials report their information to the Minnesota Department of Health in the spring. If last year’s numbers hold, 2018 will be the least deadly year since 2009, when there were 35 fire deaths.

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The leading cause of fatal fires last year in Minnesota was careless smoking (five deaths), followed by cooking (three), and portable heaters (two), according to preliminary data. There were 20 deaths in which the fire’s cause is undetermined.

“It truly takes a team effort to reduce the number of fire deaths in our state,” said Gov. Tim Walz. “Thank you to the firefighters and first responders who work hard and put their lives on the line each day to keep people safe in Minnesota. Thank you to those who live, work, and visit Minnesota who are diligent about fire prevention and safety. Saving lives and further reducing this number is possible if we all commit to making fire prevention a priority where we live and work.”

State Fire Marshal Bruce West said it is difficult to pinpoint a reason for the decrease in fire deaths. He credits Minnesota fire departments for getting out into their communities and teaching people about fire prevention and fire safety. He also believes Minnesotans are taking seriously their role in keeping themselves safe.

“We must always keep our guard up because a devastating fire can happen to anyone,” West said. “It is common for us to see peaks and valleys with fire deaths, but we all need to continue working together toward the ultimate goal: zero fire deaths in Minnesota.”

West urges Minnesotans to make fire prevention in their homes a top priority along with creating a family escape plan and practicing it twice a year.