Kitchen fires killed more people in 2013 than last 7 years combined

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For many, it's an everyday task – cooking up a meal on the stove.

But that simple task, if not done carefully, can be deadly – in fact, kitchen fires killed more people in 2013 in Minnesota than the previous seven years combined, according to a news release from the state Department of Public Safety.

Of the 44 fire deaths last year, six people were killed in fires caused by someone who left food unattended while it was cooking, which is a dramatic increase from years past.

Unattended cooking fire deaths caused an average of less than one death each year since 2006, statistics show, and there haven't been more than two deaths due to an unattended cooking fire in the state since 2006.

In 2011, 2008 and 2007 there were zero kitchen fire deaths, the release says.

Last year, unattended cooking joined careless smoking as the top cause of fire fatalities in Minnesota, which has State Fire Marshal Bruce West reminding people that "leaving the kitchen, even just for a moment, can be deadly."

In 2013, there were more than 6,300 structure fires reported in Minnesota, and 49 percent of those were caused by cooking, according to the preliminary Fire in Minnesota report by the State Fire Marshal.

The State Fire Marshal is also reminding people that simple safety precautions in the kitchen can put an end to preventable deaths, including never leaving your cooking food unattended, keeping a lid next to your pots and pans to smother a fire that starts, and keeping flammable items – like rags, pot holders and paper towels – away from the stove.

The number of fire deaths in Minnesota has been decreasing in recent years. There were 44 deaths in 2013, 50 in 2012 and 56 in 2011, according to reports.

But 2014 started off deadly in the state – there were 10 house fire deaths in the first 10 weeks of the year in Minneapolis, which put the city on pace for a record-setting number of fire deaths.

Five of the year's first 10 fire victims in Minneapolis – all of them children – died in a single blaze on the city’s north side in February. Another three were killed in a New Year’s Day fire in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood.

As of May 31, 21 people had died in fires in Minnesota this year, compared to 12 at this time last year, the State Fire Marshal's website says. Of the fire deaths where a cause has been determined, five of them were due to careless smoking and at least one was caused by cooking.

In the majority of the fire deaths this year, smoke detectors either weren't present or weren't operating properly, the State Fire Marshal notes.

As part of a mission to lower the number of fire deaths, fire officials around the state are preaching fire prevention. The Department of Public Safety is urging people to make sure their smoke detectors are working and that they have an escape plan in place in case there's a fire.

The United States Fire Administration also has many safety tips to prevent kitchen fires.

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