Fire deaths hit record low in state

There have only been 13 fire deaths in Minnesota so far this year.

The number of people killed by fires hit a record low in the state in 2007.

There were 40 fire deaths in Minnesota last year, State Fire Marshal Jerry Rosendahl said. He attributed the low number to code enforcement, public education, new technology and firefighter training. The previous record low was 41 in 2005 and 1987.

“The best way to prevent these injuries and deaths is to prevent these fires in the first place,” he said.

Public education and better behavior caused a reduction in fires overall, Rosendahl said. People are paying attention to things like electrical wiring and candle placement.

“Smoke detectors and sprinklers are not fire prevention,” he said.

Most house fires are caused by cooking, but the majority of fire-related deaths involve careless smoking.

Building and fire codes also played a role in the low number of deaths.

However, building codes, which regulate how new homes are constructed, are not enforced in every county. Fire codes include things like keeping exits clear and separating combustibles from heat sources, Rosendahl said.

University senior Adam Norcutt has been a part-time firefighter for about two years.

Although he was glad to hear fire deaths are down, he said students should be prepared for house fires instead of just relying on landlords.

“Students need to take safety really into their own hands,” he said.

Checking smoke detectors and having an escape plan are two things students can do, but he said he doesn’t think it’s likely most students will make sure their homes comply with fire codes.

Rosendahl said on-campus housing, such as residence halls, usually comply with these codes. However, off-campus rental housing doesn’t always comply.

On Sept. 20, 2003, three University students died in a fire at their duplex on 15th Avenue Southeast.

There have been more than 50 structure fires in the University area since, according to Minneapolis data. That data shows one other fire death that occurred near the University in December 2006.

As of May 13, there were 13 fire deaths in Minnesota in 2008, compared to 21 at that time in 2007.