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8 fire deaths in 2 weeks in Minnesota, half caused by smoking

Smoking-related fires can be prevented using simple measures.

Smoking is the suspected cause of four fatal fires since Jan. 9 in Minnesota, according to State Fire Marshal Jim Smith. 

Tragically, the four smoking-related fire deaths in Minnesota since Jan. 9 account for only half of the eight people who have died in fires over the last two weeks. The victims of the fires that were likely smoking related include: 

  • 80-year-old Maple Grove woman on Jan. 9. 
  • 77-year-old Eveleth woman on Jan. 14. 
  • 29-year-old St. Paul man on Jan. 18.
  • 83-year-old Montevideo woman on Jan. 14.

“I was a smoker for 30 years. I know how hard it is to quit,” State Fire Marshal Smith said in a release. “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.”

The other fire deaths are believed to have been caused by unsafe use of heat, outdoor burning and a propane explosion that killed two people in Bigfork. 

Since 2009, the average age of a person killed in a smoking-related fire in Minnesota is 61. This year, seven of the eight people killed in fires are over the age of 50. 

“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.”

Tips from the State Fire Marshal Office to avoid smoking-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 or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“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.” 

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