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State Fire Marshal


Bruce Gordon, Director of Communications
Jen Longaecker  651-201-7570
November 21, 2018
Deadly 2017 Holiday Season Prompts Fire Prevention Reminders
Stretch Between Thanksgiving & Christmas Last Year Most Deadly Since 2013
​ST. PAUL, Minn. — The winter holiday season is historically a dangerous time for residential fires and fire deaths in Minnesota. Seventeen people died in fires in Minnesota last year in November and December alone, the most during those two months since 1995, according to numbers from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD). 

Nine of the 17 deaths last year in November and December happened between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, making 2017’s winter holiday season the deadliest since 2013.   

As Thanksgiving nears, State Fire Marshal Bruce West urges all Minnesotans to take extra caution. Two leading causes of Minnesota residential fires last year — cooking and heating — are holiday staples.  

“We’re being pulled in different directions, so fire prevention and safety can take a back seat,” West said. “Not putting safety first could have tragic consequences for you, your family or your holiday guests.” 

West offers the following tips to keep your home and family safe this holiday season:

  • Never leave food cooking on the stove unattended. 
  • Set a timer if you are cooking something in the oven for a long period of time. 
  • Smother a grease fire with a pan lid and turn off the burner. Never try to move the pan. 
  • Keep anything combustible (paper towels, rags, aprons) three feet from the stove.
  • Deep-frying a turkey? Never do it indoors and always use extreme caution. This video shows how quickly deep-frying a turkey can turn dangerous. 
  • Keep space heaters three feet from anything combustible. 
  • Do not leave space heaters running unattended — including when you’re sleeping.
  • Plug space heaters into the wall, not an extension cord; unplug them when not in use. 
  • Do not use space heaters to dry wet clothing. 
Holiday decorations 
  • Keep candles three feet from combustibles; do not leave candles burning unattended. 
  • Many holiday decorations are combustible. Keep them three feet from any heat source. 
  • Never burn gift wrap in a fireplace; it burns too fast and hot to be controlled. 
  • Keep your holiday tree watered. Dry trees are extremely combustible. 
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
Working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms also play an important role in fire safety. Smoke and CO alarms save lives — but only if they work. The SFMD encourages residents to test their alarms before their holiday gatherings. Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Jim Smith explains in this video​ the importance of testing smoke alarms monthly. 

About the Minnesota Department 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 SFMD 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 |