Following four fire deaths since January 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 January 9-23. 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
•January 9 – Maple Grove: 80-year-old female victim. reliminary cause: Smoking.
•January 12 – Elk River: 54-year-old male victim. Preliminary cause: Unsafe use of heat
•January 12 – Zimmerman: 63-year-old female victim. Preliminary cause: Outdoor burning.
•January 14 – Montevideo: 83-year-old female victim. Preliminary cause: Smoking.
•January 14 – Eveleth: 77-year-old female victim. Preliminary cause: Smoking.
•January 18 – St. Paul: 29-year-old male victim. Preliminary cause: Smoking.
•January 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% of those victims were over age 50.
•43% of people who died had a measurable blood-alcohol content (BAC); 40% of those had a BAC over .08.
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.”