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State Fire Marshal


Bruce Gordon, Director of Communications
Jen Longaecker  651-201-7570
January 10, 2019
Fire Deaths Drop 47 Percent in 2018
Decrease Follows Deadliest Year Since 1995
​ST. PAUL, Minn. — Thirty-six people died last year in fires, a 47 percent drop from 2017 when 68 people died, according to preliminary numbers released today by the Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD)

Last year’s drop in fire deaths comes on the heels of a particularly deadly 2017, which saw the most fire deaths in Minnesota since 1995.   

Fire death numbers become final once Minnesota hospital officials report their information to the Minnesota Department of Health in the spring. If last year’s numbers hold, 2018 will be the least deadly year since 2009 when there were 35 fire deaths. 

There have been two fire deaths so far in 2019, one in Brainerd and the other in St. Paul.   

The leading cause of fatal fires last year in Minnesota was careless smoking (five deaths), followed by cooking (three), and portable heaters (two), according to preliminary data. There were 20 deaths in which the fire’s cause is undetermined.

“It truly takes a team effort to reduce the number of fire deaths in our state. Thank you to the firefighters and first responders who work hard and put their lives on the line each day to keep people safe in Minnesota. Thank you to those who live, work, and visit Minnesota who are diligent about fire prevention and safety,” Governor Tim Walz said. “Saving lives and further reducing this number is possible if we all commit to making fire prevention a priority where we live and work.”

State Fire Marshal Bruce West said it is difficult to pinpoint a reason for the decrease in fire deaths. He credits Minnesota fire departments for getting out into their communities and teaching people about fire prevention and fire safety. 

He also believes Minnesotans are taking seriously their role in keeping themselves safe. 

“We must always keep our guard up because a devastating fire can happen to anyone,” West said. “It is common for us to see peaks and valleys with fire deaths but we all need to continue working together toward the ultimate goal: zero fire deaths in Minnesota.”

West urges Minnesotans to make fire prevention in their homes a top priority along with creating a family escape plan and practicing it twice a year.  

Fire deaths the past decade 
  • 2018: 36
  • 2017: 68 
  • 2016: 43
  • 2015: 57
  • 2014: 44
  • 2013: 44
  • 2012: 50
  • 2011: 56
  • 2010: 39
  • 2009: 35
Fire prevention tips
Minnesotans can keep themselves and their families safe by following these fire prevention and safety tips.  

  • If you smoke, 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.
  • Never leave food cooking on the stovetop unattended; stay and look while you cook.  
  • Keep items like oven mitts, aprons and paper towels 3 feet from heat sources in the kitchen. 
  • 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; change the batteries at least once a year. 
  • Fire doubles 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 each sleeping room.
Family 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.
About the Minnesota Department of Public Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.

About the State Fire Marshal Division
The mission of the State Fire Marshal Division is to protect lives and property by fostering a fire-safe environment through fire/arson investigation, code development and enforcement, regulation, data collection and public education. Data collected by the State Fire Marshal Division from fire departments statewide is analyzed and used to determine the best methods of public education and enforcement to improve fire safety in our state. 

445 Minnesota Street, Suite 100 | Saint Paul, Minnesota 55101-5155 |