According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS), 56 people have died in fires in Minnesota so far this year, which is a 30 percent increase over last year’s total of 43.

There were 42 fire deaths at this time last year. In 2015 there were 57 fire deaths, the highest number since 2002 when there were 64. The holiday season is historically a dangerous time for fires.

The three leading causes of residential fires in Minnesota are all holiday staples: cooking, heating and open flames.

The leading cause of fatal fires in Minnesota is careless smoking. Cooking is the leading cause of residential fires in Minnesota.

What follows are some tips to follow in order to be fire safe:

• Stay in the kitchen while you’re cooking.

• Keep items such as towels and aprons at least three feet from the stove.

• Set a timer if you’re using the oven.

• Alternative heat sources like space heaters can provide extra warmth, but they can also be dangerous.

• Never leave a space heater unattended.

• Plug space heaters directly into outlets, not extension cords.

• Keep flammable items three feet from the heater.

• Real candles are pretty holiday decorations, but they can easily cause a fire.

• Use flameless candles for your holiday decorations.

• If you use real candles, do not leave them unattended. Keep flammable items away from candles.

• Keep your Christmas tree watered. A dry tree can cause a deadly fire in seconds. Unless you plan to remove your tree immediately after Christmas Day, do not forget to keep watering it.

More people die in careless smoking fires than any other type of fire in Minnesota. Smoke outside. Properly extinguish cigarettes in a solid container filled with sand or water.

Do not smoke while on or near medical oxygen. Do not smoke while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

The best way to stay safe is by preventing a fire in the first place, but if a fire does happen a smoke alarm could save your life.

Smoke alarms save lives – but only if they work. Test your alarms before gatherings with loved ones.

“We don’t want anyone to suffer the loss of a loved one in a fire. Following some simple tips can help prevent a tragedy,” said Bruce West, Minnesota state fire marshal.

The state’s all-time low fire-death figure was 35 in 2009; the high was 134 in 1976.

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