The number of fire deaths in 2016 was the second-lowest since the Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD) began compiling those statistics in 1970, according to preliminary information released recently.
Thirty-six people died in fires in 2016, a 37 percent decrease over the 57 fatalities in 2015. The lowest number of fire fatalities on record was 35 in 2009; the highest on record was 134 in 1976.
The leading cause of fatal fires last year in Minnesota was careless smoking (seven deaths) followed by combustibles too close (four) and suicide or arson (four), according to preliminary data.
There were 13 fire deaths in which the fire’s cause was undetermined. Numbers become final once Minnesota hospital officials report their information to the Minnesota Department of Public Health in the spring.  
Bruce West, state fire marshal,  said he is pleased fire deaths plummeted to a near-record low, but, he added, even one fire death is too many.
“Nobody should ever have to suffer the pain of losing someone in a fire,” West said. “Everyone must take fire prevention seriously, so the number of deaths keeps falling.”
West said it is difficult to pinpoint a reason for the drop in fire deaths. He is hopeful Minnesotans are realizing the danger and power of fire and taking fire prevention in their homes more seriously.
What follows are the fire deaths statistics for the past decade:
• 2016: 36 (preliminary)
•  2015: 57
• 2014: 44
• 2013: 44
• 2012: 50
• 2011: 56
• 2010: 39
• 2009: 35
• 2008: 52
•  2007: 40
Minnesotans can keep themselves and their families safe by following these tips:
 
Cooking
• Never leave a hot stove top or oven unattended; stay and look while you cook.
• Keep anything flammable three feet from heat sources in the kitchen.
 
Smoking
• If you smoke, smoke outside.
• Use a deep, sturdy ashtray. Place it away from anything that can burn.
• Do not discard cigarettes in potted plants, leaves, mulch or other vegetation.
• Completely extinguish cigarettes. Use a metal container filled with water or sand.

Heating
• Keep space heaters three feet from anything combustible.
• Do not leave space heaters unattended and turn them off while you’re sleeping.
• Plug space heaters directly into the wall, not an extension cord or power strip.
• Leave three feet between a candle and anything that can burn; use flameless candles.


 Alarms
• Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms save lives – but only if they work. Test yours monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.
• Fire doubles in size every 60 seconds.
A smoke alarm can give you the valuable time you need to escape.
• Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.
• Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed within 10 feet of each sleeping room or inside each sleeping room.
For more information, visit dps.mn.gov.

Photo courtesy of Internet public domain