Fifty-seven people were killed in fires in Minnesota last year.
That's a nearly 30 percent increase from 2014 and 2013, when 44 people died in fires. And it's the highest number since 2002, when 64 people were killed, according to final numbers released by the State Fire Marshal's Office Monday.
State Fire Marshal Bruce West called the increase "heartbreaking" in a news release, noting many of the deaths were preventable and that people need to take fire prevention seriously.
The leading known cause: Careless smoking
The leading cause of fatal fires last year was careless smoking – nine people died, according to the numbers. That's the same number of fire fatalities attributed to careless smoking in 2014.
Earlier this month, St. Paul fire officials told WCCO that discarded cigarettes caused eight house fires in the city over a two-week span.
There were 24 fatalities where the cause of death was undetermined.
So far this year, preliminary numbers show 14 people have died in fires. At this time last year there were 27 fire deaths, Jennifer Longaecker with the state Department of Public Safety told BringMeTheNews.
Tips to prevent fires
The State Fire Marshal's Office is encouraging people to take the steps to prevent fires. Here are some tips:
- If you're cooking, don't leave a hot stove or oven unattended. The fire marshal also has tips for when you're grilling.
- If you smoke, do so outside, but don't discard your cigarette in potted plants, leaves, mulch or other vegetation. And make sure it's out completely before you toss it.
- In the winter, keep space heaters away from anything that could start on fire, and don't leave them on when you're not home or while your'e sleeping.
- If you light candles, keep them 3 feet away from anything that could start on fire. Or use flameless candles.
For more fire prevention tips, click here.