Skip to main content

Boreal Community Media

In Minnesota, fire deaths increase 13 percent in 2020

Jan 09, 2021 10:08AM ● By Editor

Photo: KARE 11 News

From the Minnesota Department of Public Safety - January 8, 2021

At least 53 people died last year in fires in Minnesota — a 13 percent increase over the 47 fire deaths in 2019, according to preliminary numbers from the Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division. That number is the highest since 2017 when there were 68 fire deaths.

Fire death numbers will become final later this year once Minnesota hospital officials report their information to the Minnesota Department of Health.

  • Smoking was the leading cause of fatal fires in Minnesota; gas-related explosions was the second-leading cause in 2020
  • At least seven people died in smoking-related fires in 2020. That number could rise as investigators continue determining fire causes.

Smoking-related fire deaths by year:

  • 2016: 7
  • 2017: 11
  • 2018: 9
  • 2019: 10
  • 2020: 7 (preliminary)

 Follow these tips to prevent a smoking-related fire:

  • Smoke outside and extinguish cigarettes in a sturdy ashtray filled with sand or water.
  • Do not discard cigarettes in potted plants, leaves, mulch or other vegetation.
  • Do not smoke while on oxygen.
  • Avoid smoking while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
    • At least six people died in gas-related explosions in 2020.
    • At least five people died in cooking-related fires in 2020.

Cooking-related fire deaths by year:

  • 2016: 0
  • 2017: 3
  • 2018: 3
  • 2019: 3
  • 2020: 5 (preliminary)

Follow these tips to prevent a cooking-related fire:

  • Never leave food cooking on the stovetop unattended.
  • Stay and look while you cook. Have something in the oven and need to leave the kitchen? Set a timer and bring it with you.
  • Keep items like oven mitts, aprons, paper towels and anything else that can burn at least 3 feet from heat sources in the kitchen.

Notable 2020 fire death statistics

  • People age 50 or older accounted for 68 percent of those killed.
  • 23 percent of the people who died had alcohol in their systems.
  • 36 of the fire deaths happened in a home or business.
  • 22 percent of those homes or businesses did not have a working smoke alarm.

Fire deaths (all causes) since 2016

  • 2020: 53 (preliminary)
  • 2019: 47
  • 2018: 36
  • 2017: 68
  • 2016: 43

The leading cause of fire deaths in each of these years was careless smoking. More historical information on Minnesota fire deaths can be found in our Fire in Minnesota reports.

The fire death rate in Minnesota has dropped 63 percent since the 1970s. Numbers below are deaths per 100,000 people:

  • 1970s: 2.45
  • 1980s: 1.86
  • 1990s: 1.26
  • 2000s: 0.91
  • 2010s: 0.90

Fire prevention tips

“There are many little things we can do to prevent a devastating fire from happening in our homes,” State Fire Marshal Jim Smith said. “It is important to practice fire prevention and safety every day.”

In addition to the smoking and cooking fire prevention tips mentioned above, Minnesotans can keep themselves and their families safe by following these fire prevention and safety tips.


  • Keep space heaters 3 feet from anything combustible.
  • Do not leave space heaters unattended. Turn them off while you’re sleeping.
  • Plug space heaters directly into the wall, not an extension cord or power strip.
  • Have your furnace and chimney inspected annually.
  • Open flames
  • Keep candles at least 3 feet from anything that can burn and never leave a candle unattended.
  • Use flameless or battery-operated candles instead of real candles.

Smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms

  • Test your smoke and CO alarms monthly; change the batteries at least once a year.
  • Fires double in size every 60 seconds; a smoke alarm can give you the time you need to escape.
  • Install smoke alarms in bedrooms, outside sleeping areas and on every level of the home.
  • Install CO alarms within 10 feet of each sleeping room or inside each sleeping room.

Family escape planning

  • Create a family escape plan and practice it twice a year with everyone in your home.
  • Start by drawing a map of your home that shows two ways out of every room. Make sure those ways out are easy to open (make sure windows aren’t painted shut, for example), and practice using different ones. If you have a multi-level home, consider putting an escape ladder near each window so you can get to the ground safely in an emergency.
  • Designate a meeting place outside, such as a tree or utility pole.
Upcoming Events Near You
Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here