We need your help to prevent smoking-related fire deaths

July 9, 2020

2020 Smoking Related Fire Deaths: 11 fatalities, average age 59, 35 total fire fatalities

Wouldn’t it be nice if all the other bad stuff went away while we fought a pandemic? That way we could focus all our time and energy on staying safe from COVID-19 without worrying what else 2020 would bring us. But that’s not how the virus works, and that’s not how fire works, either. Case in point: The number of people who have died in fires this year (35) is up 35 percent compared with this time last year, according to preliminary numbers. At this time last year, there were 26 fire deaths.

These deaths are preventable. Take smoking-related fire deaths, for example. Historically, smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths in Minnesota. This year smoking has likely played a role in nearly one-third of the fire deaths, according to preliminary information from our fire investigators. And seven of those 11 victims were over the age of 60. In fact, the average age of victims who died in smoking-related fires between 2009 and 2019 is 61.

So how do we keep history from repeating itself? Earlier this year, the State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD) announced that one of its goals was to reduce smoking-related fire deaths by 30 percent over the next five years. But we can’t do it alone. We know smoking is an incredibly hard habit to break but it’s not hard to smoke outside and make sure your cigarette is properly extinguished. Those are small prices to pay to save the life of your sweet neighbor Patty, your uncle Steve, Grandma Lucy or someone you have never met — or yourself. No matter whose lives are being saved, it will make a difference across the state of Minnesota.

Here’s how you can help. Follow these tips to prevent a smoking-related fire, and find more on the SFMD website.

  • 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 or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Perhaps you’re not a smoker. You can still do your part to reduce smoking-related fire deaths, though. Talk to a friend or loved one who smokes, and share these tips with them. Especially if you’re the child or caregiver of an older smoker, you’ll want to protect them from smoking-related fires. We can all take care of each other.