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Fire that displaced 19 families sparked by discarded cigarette butt

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The weekend fire which displaced 44 people living at a Duluth apartment complex was accidental and no charges will be filed in connection with the blaze. But finding new housing for the 19 families who lost their homes is proving to be a challenge

Northland's News Center reports the Duluth Fire Department determined the Easter Sunday blaze was caused by "improper disposal of a cigarette."

Duluth Fire Marshal Marnie Grondahl told the Duluth News Tribune a smoker at the Applewood Knoll apartments put out a cigarette by dispensing of it in “a plastic container that wasn’t meant to be an ashtray.“

“They put it into a container, then the container caught on fire and spread to the building,” she said.

No one was seriously hurt, but a number of residents were hospitalized overnight with smoke inhalation.

According to the United States Fire Association, smoking remains the number one cause of home fire deaths in the United States, claiming about 1,000 lives each year.

Many of the displaced families in Duluth face significant losses as a result of the fire. WDIO notes the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and other groups have been working to help the displaced residents.

The Salvation Army said that as of Thursday, many of the families were still being housed at a motel and only a few had found permanent housing. The News Tribune story noted that lining up their next homes will not be easy; Applewood Knoll was income-based housing.

"There is already such a small percentage of houses available,” said Major Bill Cox, commander of the Salvation Army in Duluth. “We have a housing shortage.”

The Salvation Army has raised $1,300 to help with the relocation, has given residents clothing vouchers for its stores and opened its hot lunch program and food shelf.

The Duluth Hip-Hop Community Cares event will present a benefit show for the families on Sunday, accepting cash, non-perishable food items and clothing. In addition, there will be a silent action and raffle on Saturday at Striker's Sports Bar in Superior.

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