A total of 42 people died last year in fires in Minnesota, which is a 14 percent increase over the 37 fire deaths in 2018, according to preliminary numbers from the Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD).

Fire death numbers will become final later this year once Minnesota hospital officials report their information to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Smoking is the leading cause of fatal fires in Minnesota. At least seven people died in smoking-related fires in 2019. That number could rise as investigators continue determining fire causes.

According to the SFMD, 94 people have died in smoking-related fires between 2009-19, and 81 percent of those victims were over age 50. The data also shows 43 percent of people who died had a measurable blood-alcohol content (BAC), and 40 percent of those had a BAC over .08.

What follows are the smoking-related fire deaths by year:

• 2009: 10

• 2010: 7 

• 2011: 10

• 2012: 10

• 2013: 6

• 2014: 8

• 2015: 9

• 2016: 7

• 2017: 11

• 2018: 9

• 2019: 7 (preliminary)

Follow these tips to prevent a smoking-related fire:

• Smoke outside and extinguish cigarettes in a sturdy ashtray filled with sand or water.

• Do not discard cigarettes in potted plants, leaves, mulch or other vegetation.

• Do not smoke while on oxygen.

• Avoid smoking while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

2019 statistics

• People age 50 or older accounted for 67 percent of those who were killed.

• There were no working smoke alarms in 12 percent of homes where people died.

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

Fire death rates

The fire death rate in Minnesota has dropped 63 percent since the 1970s. Numbers below are deaths per 100,000 people:

• 1970s: 2.45

• 1980s: 1.86

• 1990s: 1.26

• 2000s: 0.91

• 2010s: 0.90

Prevention tips

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

Minnesotans can keep themselves and their families safe by following these fire prevention and safety tips:

• Cooking – Never leave food cooking on the stove top unattended; stay and look while you cook. Keep items like oven mitts, aprons and paper towels three feet from heat sources in the kitchen.

• Heating – Keep space heaters three feet from anything combustible. Do not leave space heaters unattended. Turn them off while you’re sleeping. Plug space heaters directly into the wall, not an extension cord or power strip. Have your furnace and chimney inspected annually.

• Open flames – Keep candles at least three feet from anything that can burn and never leave a candle unattended. Use flameless candles instead of real candles.

• Smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms – Test your smoke and CO alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Fires double in size every 60 seconds; a smoke alarm can give you the time you need to escape. Install smoke alarms in bedrooms, outside sleeping areas and on every level of the home. CO alarms should be installed within 10 feet of each sleeping room or inside of each sleeping room.

• Escape planning – Create a family escape plan and practice it twice a year with everyone in your home. Start by drawing a map of your home that shows two ways out of every room. Make sure those ways out are easy to open (make sure windows aren’t painted shut, for example), and practice using different ones. If you have a multi-level home, consider putting an escape ladder near each window so you can get to the ground safely in an emergency. Designate a meeting place outside, such as a tree or utility pole.

Learn more about fire safety online at dps.mn.gov.

- Image courtesy of the U.S. Fire Administration