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Fire deaths: Even one is too many

Dec. 21, 2017

Photo of a home damaged by a fire caused by careless smoking.
An improperly discarded cigarette caused the fire that killed two people in this Longville home in July. Careless smoking is the leading cause of fatal fires in Minnesota.

You’ve no doubt heard us say it before: Even one death is too many, no matter what the cause. And fire deaths are, more often than not, heartbreakingly preventable. Which is why we’re asking for your help. According to preliminary numbers, there have been 56 fire deaths here in Minnesota so far this year. If two more people die, we will have the highest number of fire deaths since 2002.

Of course, we’d like that number to be zero, but even 35 – the state’s all-time low for fire deaths, in 2009 – would be better. Unfortunately, there’s no common theme in these fire deaths, except for the fact that they all happened because of human behavior. People are dying because someone walked away from food cooking on the stove, tried to put out their cigarette in a potted plant, or any one of a number of other preventable behaviors.

That’s where you come in, especially at this time of year. The number of fires tends to increase over the winter holiday months. It makes sense when you think about staying inside more (and therefore using your heat sources more), decorating with things like candles and trees, and cooking holiday feasts. Cooking, heating and open flames happen to be the three leading causes of fires in Minnesota, so it’s important to follow safety tips to prevent your holidays from becoming tragic. Here are a few:

  • Don’t smoke while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or while on (or near) medical oxygen.
  • Dispose of cigarettes in a sturdy container filled with sand or water.
  • Don’t leave candles unattended. Better yet, use the flameless kind.
  • Stay in the kitchen and keep an eye on what you’re cooking.

The goal here is to prevent fires from happening altogether. But that’s not always possible, which is why smoke alarms are an absolute must. Make sure you have one on every level of your home, as well as in each bedroom. And of course, smoke alarms can only save your life if they work, which is why you should replace the batteries at least once a year and test the alarms monthly.

Yes, even one death is too many, and we’re all in this together. So as you get ready for the holidays, remember the 56 people who have died in fires so far this year in Minnesota, and take simple precautions to avoid having you and your family become part of that number.