FARGO — Fire deaths in Minnesota increased 13% between 2019 and 2020, according to a report compiled by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Meanwhile, information gleaned from the website of the North Dakota Attorney General's Office shows fire deaths jumped at least 25% in North Dakota during the same time period.

In Minnesota, at least 53 people died in fires in 2020 compared to 47 fire deaths in 2019, based on preliminary 2020 numbers. That makes 2020 the deadliest year for fires since 2017, when there were 68 fire deaths, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety report.

Smoking was the leading cause of fatal fires in Minnesota last year with seven deaths, followed by gas-related explosions with six deaths and cooking-related fires with five.

According to Minnesota fire statistics, fire death totals for the past four years included:

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

Numbers found on the North Dakota Attorney General's Office website indicate that from January through November of 2020 there were ten fatal fires in the state, with numbers for the month of December not yet available.

For all of 2019, there were eight fatal fires in North Dakota, according to the attorney general's website.

The 2017-2019 biennium report for the attorney general's office states the state fire marshal serves as the state's program manager for the National Fire Incident Reporting System, meaning the attorney general's office monitors reports submitted by local fire departments to compile and analyze statewide fire incident statistics.

The latest biennium report also notes that only 60% of fire departments in the state were submitting fire incident reports as of 2019.

In the monthly state fire report for November, North Dakota State Fire Marshal Douglas Nelson said, over the course of 2020, many fire departments reached out to increase the statewide reporting of fires.

"Thank you to all the fire departments that have been working to improve these essential statistics for the fire service in North Dakota," Nelson said.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety report summarizing 2020 fire statistics noted smoking-related fires can be reduced in a number of ways, including:

  • Smoke outside and never extinguish 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.

To avoid cooking-related fires, stay and "look while you cook," the report said, adding timers should be used if a cooking project is left unattended.

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