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Number of deaths from fires in 2018 lowest in 9 years

ST. PAUL, MN– The Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division said in a statement Wednesday that the number of fire-related deaths were down significantly in 2018 compared to 2017.

36 people died in 2018, down 47 percent from 2017, when 68 people had died, making it the deadliest year for fire-related deaths since 1995.

Last year, officials say careless smoking caused five deaths, three by cooking and two from portable heaters, however, 20 of the deaths were undetermined.

State Fire Marshal Bruce West said it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact reason for the decrease in fire deaths, but he credits Minnesota fire departments for getting out into their communities and teaching people about fire prevention and fire safety, adding that he also believes residents are becoming more aware and alert in keeping themselves safe.

“We must always keep our guard up because a devastating fire can happen to anyone,” said West.

“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 added.

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

Listed below are some fire prevention and safety tips to keep you and your family safe:

-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.

Austin Haskins

Meteorologist/Web Producer

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