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Nearly half of this year’s fire deaths are due to smoking. We’re working to stop it.

March 16, 2020

Fire damage on the exterior of a home

Imagine that you haven’t heard from a 70-something friend for a while, so you go to his house to check on him. You find the house filled with smoke, and your friend is on the floor in front of his sofa. You call 911, and responding firefighters discover that the sofa had been on fire. Next to it are your friend’s ashtray and cigarettes. He never had a chance to get out – his smoke alarms weren’t working. A perfectly preventable death.

The State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD) wants these tragedies to stop happening. So they’ve set a new goal: to reduce the number of fire deaths caused by smoking by 30 percent over the next five years. It’s not a random goal, by any means. Careless smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths in Minnesota. In fact, since 2009, 100 Minnesotans have died in fires related to smoking. And preliminary numbers show that six of the 13 fire deaths so far this year appear to be smoking-related. All those deaths – just like the one mentioned above – were preventable.

Hence the SFMD’s goal, which we can’t achieve without your support.

We’re working with fire departments around the state to get the word out, so you’ll likely be seeing messaging about it from your local fire department in the form of public events, traditional media and social media. Over the next several months, we will be producing a variety of materials for them to use, such as social media tools, news releases, graphics and handout materials.

We know this can be an uphill battle, because it involves getting people to change their habits. But smoking can kill you in more ways than one. And while it’s hard to quit smoking, but it’s not hard to follow these simple guidelines:

  • Smoke outside and put out cigarettes in a sturdy container filled with sand or water.
  • Never discard cigarettes in potted plants, leaves, mulch or other vegetation.
  • Don’t smoke while on oxygen or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

And if you don’t smoke, please talk to loved ones and friends who smoke and ask them to do those things. Concentrate especially on the older smokers in your life. Four of the six people who have died in smoking-related fires so far this year were over the age of 50. These deaths are often happening to vulnerable people who are alone, so look in on them regularly to help them stay safe.

Reducing smoking-related fire deaths by 30 percent over the next five years may sound like a lofty goal. But it’s not unrealistic, especially if we have your help.