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State Fire Marshal


Bruce Gordon, Director of Communications
Jen Longaecker  651-201-7570
February 01, 2018
Fire Deaths Jump to Highest Level Since 2002
Fire Marshal Urges Minnesotans to Keep Taking Fire Prevention Seriously
​ST. PAUL, Minn. — More people died in fires last year in Minnesota than in any year since 2002, according to preliminary numbers released today by the Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division (DPS-SFMD).

Sixty-three people died in fires in 2017, a 47 percent increase over the 43 fatalities in 2016. The last time more than 60 people died in fires in Minnesota was in 2002, when 64 people died. The lowest number of fire fatalities on record was 35 in 2009; the highest was 134 in 1976. Fire death numbers become final once Minnesota hospital officials report their information to the Minnesota Department of Public Health in the spring. Seven people have died in fires so far in 2018.  

Last year ended on a particularly tragic note when four people — 4- and 9-year-old cousins and their grandparents — died Dec. 26 in a Hibbing house fire. The cause of that fire is still under investigation by local fire officials and the DPS-SFMD. 

The leading cause of fatal fires last year in Minnesota was careless smoking (nine deaths), followed by combustibles too close a heat source (four), according to preliminary data. There were 19 deaths in which the fire’s cause was undetermined.

Preventing fire deaths  
State Fire Marshal Bruce West said last year’s increase is concerning, because most fire deaths are preventable.

“Fire is deadly, plain and simple,” West said. “If people don’t take the dangers of fire seriously and work to prevent a fire in their home, they could find themselves or their loved ones victims of the next tragedy.”

West said it is difficult to pinpoint a reason for the spike in fire deaths. He 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
  • 2017: 63
  • 2016: 43
  • 2015: 57
  • 2014: 44
  • 2013: 44
  • 2012: 50
  • 2011: 56
  • 2010: 39
  • 2009: 35
  • 2008: 52
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 |