2014 is still young. And so were several of the Minneapolis house fire victims in a year that's on pace to set a city record for fire deaths.
Fire chiefs across the Twin Cities area are alarmed by the unprecedented rate of fatalities, WCCO reports. Several came together Friday to put out a call for fire prevention.
MPR reports Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said a blaze that killed two people earlier this week and another non-fatal fire on Thursday were both caused by careless handling of cigarettes or other smoking materials.
MPR says St. Paul Fire Chief Tim Butler pointed out that while unattended cooking is the most common cause of house fires, fires that lead to deaths are most often caused by smoking.
"Just like don't you drink and drive - don't drink and smoke. We're seeing that very deadly combination of people who get intoxicated, enjoy their smoke, fall asleep on the couch and then their family is destroyed," Butler said.
The chiefs also advocated for sprinkler systems, KSTP reports. They say in homes without sprinklers a house fire typically doubles in size every minute. Sprinklers are not expected to extinguish a blaze, but they can limit its growth until firefighters arrive.
KSTP says the fire chiefs urged that sprinkler systems be mandatory in new homes. That's a requirement that the Minnesota Builders Association has opposed, arguing that the expense is not justified and that smoke alarms provide sufficient protection, the station says.
Five of this year's Minneapolis fire victims – all of them children – died in a single blaze on the city's north side last month. Another three were killed in a New Year's Day fire in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood.