2017 marks deadly year for house fires in Minnesota

- The State Fire Marshal confirmed that house fires have claimed at least 57 lives this year, a 30 percent increase over last year.

This week a retired fire captain of the Hibbing Fire Department fell prey to the danger of a fire in what was a wakeup call for many. Fox 9 spoke to fire departments around the Twin Cities to discuss fire prevention.

“One is too many,” said Jim Smith, chief deputy with the State Fire Marshal. “57 right now is very concerning.”

“That’s 57 people who are not around for their loved ones,” Smith continued.

The toll does not include six recent deaths that the medical examiner has yet to confirm.

“Four in Hibbing, one in Lakeville and one in western Minnesota,” Smith said.

Those six deaths were likely caused by several house fires in the last week alone. Even prior to the most recent deaths, the toll marks a 30 percent spike in house fire deaths over the last year.

“Especially around the holiday season, we tend to see a little spike in business, unfortunately,” said Douglas Nelson, assistant chief with Burnsville Fire.

In Burnsville, there were two holiday fires - one on Christmas Eve, the other on Christmas.

“To have two back to back like that is a little bit unusual...both are under investigation,” Nelson said.

Both fires were in the same mobile home park, Arbor Vista. But as for fire deaths, Burnsville hasn’t had a single one. Nelson credits the department’s safety awareness effort.

“Make sure you have a couple ways out of your house. If you have windows, make sure they’re not frozen closed, [and] make sure you check your carbon monoxide detectors,” Nelson said.

Although most people know it only takes minutes for flames to engulf a home, the reality is that house fires are usually caused by something we do or don't do. It’s important to be sure fire detectors are in working order and replaced every seven years.

According to the State Fire Marshal, smoking and cooking are the two leading causes of house fires. It’s important for smokers to put cigarette butts out completely and in a safe container. The fire marshal also wanted to remind people how important it is to stay in the kitchen anytime a stove is on.

Never keep combustibles near a stove or a space heater. And never use an extension cord to plug a space heater in; they need to be directly connected to a wall outlet.

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