2017 may be worst in years for Minnesota fire deaths

Fifty-seven people died this year because of fires in Minnesota as of Dec. 15. That doesn't include five deaths in recent days from fires in Hibbing, Lakeville and Marshall which seem likely to be added once the investigations are complete.

Collectively, it amounts to a grim year for fire deaths in the state.

"We could easily be in the sixties and we haven't seen that number since 2002," said Minnesota State Fire Marshall Bruce West.

While the numbers remain far below those in the 1970s, when there was an average of 96 fire deaths every year, West and other officials remain concerned about any increase in deaths. His office is analyzing data now looking for any reasons behind the rise.

The year-end holiday season, though, plays a role.

"It is a more dangerous time of the year, between Thanksgiving and the first of the year because of just so many activities going on within a household," he said.

West said he encourages people to check their smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. With the cold snap, people often pull out their space heaters.

"As soon as the temperature gets below zero, the space heaters come out and we want to make sure people use them safely," he said. That means never using an extension cord, and always making sure there is nothing combustible within 3 feet.

He also said that cooking is the leading cause of residential fires in Minnesota and that the kitchen is a place that requires special care.

He also encouraged people to practice fire escape drills and "make sure people who are at your home know how to get out of your home."

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