DPS: 2020 had highest number of Minnesota fire deaths since 2017

More people died in fires last year in Minnesota than in any year since 2017, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) said Tuesday.

According to DPS, at least 53 people died in Minnesota fires in 2020, up from 47 in 2019. It’s the most fire-related deaths in a year since there were 68 in 2017.

DPS said smoking (7) was the leading cause of fatal fires in the state, with gas-related explosions (6) being second followed by cooking (5).

At least seven people died in smoking-related fires last year, although that’s the lowest number since seven deaths in 2016. DPS said five people died in cooking-related fires in 2020, which is the highest in the past five years.

DPS offered the following tips to avoid smoking- and cooking-related fires.

  • 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.
  • Avoid smoking while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Never leave food cooking on the stovetop unattended.
  • Stay and look while you cook. Have something in the oven and need to leave the kitchen? Set a timer and bring it with you.
  • Keep items like oven mitts, aprons, paper towels and anything else that can burn at least 3 feet from heat sources in the kitchen.

People 50 years of age or older accounted for 68% of those killed in Minnesota fires last year, and 23% of victims had alcohol in their systems, according to DPS. Of the 53 deaths, 36 happened in a home or business, and 22% of those didn’t have a working smoke alarm.

"There are many little things we can do to prevent a devastating fire from happening in our homes," State Fire Marshal Jim Smith said. "It is important to practice fire prevention and safety every day."