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Published January 10 2010

2009 Minnesota fire deaths lowest on record

Minnesota’s projected number of fire deaths in 2009 will be the lowest since recordkeeping began in 1970.

The preliminary count of 32 by the Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division represents a 20 percent drop from the previous record low of 40 in 2007.

Officials cite the declining number of smokers as one reason for dwindling fire deaths. Careless smoking, typically the top cause of fire fatalities, is blamed for four fatalities in 2009; in 2007, that number was eight.

Nine of last year’s fire-related deaths were caused by other human errors, including combustible materials too close to a heat source, careless open-air burning, unattended cooking and unattended candles.

Twenty Minnesota counties suffered one fire death each, followed by Aitkin, Jackson and Waseca counties, two each, and Becker and Hennepin counties, three each.

Preliminary statistics show that none of the 2009 fire victims were killed where working smoke alarms were present; 15 deaths occurred where alarms were missing or not operating, or where the presence and condition of alarms was undetermined.