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State Fire Marshal


Bruce Gordon, Director of Communications
Jen Longaecker  651-201-7570
January 24, 2020
Preliminary Reports: 4 of 8 Fire Deaths This Year Likely Smoking Related
State Fire Marshal Asking Minnesotans to Follow Smoking Tips
ST. PAUL — Following four fire deaths since Jan. 9 that appear to be smoking related, State Fire Marshal Jim Smith is asking Minnesotans who smoke to follow some important safety tips, and families to talk to loved ones who smoke about its fire-related dangers.  

Eight people died in fires between Jan. 9 and Jan. 23. Four of these fatalities this month are likely smoking related, according to preliminary investigations. Smoking is typically the leading cause of fatal fires each year in Minnesota. There were three fire deaths at this time last year. 

Follow these tips to prevent a smoking-related fire: 
  • 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. 
“I was a smoker for 30 years. I know how hard it is to quit,” State Fire Marshal Smith said. “But it’s not hard to smoke outside and properly extinguish your cigarettes in a sturdy container filled with sand or water. It’s not hard to talk to your loved ones who smoke and ask them to do these things.”
This year’s fire deaths 
Jan. 9
Maple Grove
80-year-old female victim
Preliminary cause: Smoking

Jan. 12
Elk River
54-year-old male victim 
Preliminary cause: Unsafe use of heat 

63-year-old female victim
Preliminary cause: Outdoor burning

Jan. 14
83-year-old female victim
Preliminary cause: Smoking

77-year-old female victim
Preliminary cause: Smoking

Jan. 18 
St. Paul 
29-year-old male victim
Preliminary cause: Smoking
Jan. 23
Big Fork 
93-year-old male victim
66-year-old female victim
Preliminary cause: Propane explosion

Preliminary investigations also indicate seven of the eight victims who died in fires this year are over age 50. The average age of victims who died in smoking-related fires between 2009 and 2019 is 61.

“These deaths are often happening to vulnerable people who are alone,” Smith said. “That’s why we are asking family members and anyone in contact with older smokers to look in on them and help them be safe.”

Smoking is the leading cause of fatal fires in Minnesota
At least seven people died in smoking-related fires in 2019. That number could rise as investigators continue determining fire causes. 

Ninety-four people died in smoking-related fires between 2009 and 2019. 
  • 81 percent of those victims were over age 50. 
  • 43 percent of people who died had a measurable blood-alcohol content (BAC); 40 percent of those had a BAC over .08.
Smoking-related fire deaths by year: 
  • 2009: 10
  • 2010: 7
  • 2011: 10
  • 2012: 10
  • 2013: 6
  • 2014: 8
  • 2015: 9
  • 2016: 7
  • 2017: 11
  • 2018: 9
  • 2019: 7 (preliminary)
  • 2020: 4 (preliminary)
 “Smoking can kill you more ways than one,” Smith said. “Year after year, people die in preventable smoking-related fires and, to be honest, it’s frustrating.” 

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