St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - After spiking in 2017, Minnesota experienced a dramatic drop in fire-related deaths last year.

Preliminary statistics from the State Fire Marshal's Office shows 36 people died as a result of fires in Minnesota in 2018. That is down 47-percent when compared to the previous year when 68 people perished in fires, which was the highest fire death toll recorded in the state since 1995. While it was anticipated the number of fatalities would drop, the Fire Marshal's Office report shows the tally is the lowest in five years and could end up being the lowest since 2009, when Minnesota experienced 35 fire deaths. So far this year, Minnesota has seen two fire fatalities.

The leading identified cause of the fatal fires that occurred in the state last year was careless smoking, followed by cooking, and portable heaters, but the cause was undetermined in 20 of the fire deaths. Fire Marshal Bruce West says it is difficult to pinpoint a reason for the overall decrease last year, but he credits fire departments throughout Minnesota for getting out into the communities and educating people about fire prevention and fire safety.

“We must always keep our guard up because a devastating fire can happen to anyone,” West said. “It is common for us to see peaks and valleys with fire deaths but we all need to continue working together toward the ultimate goal: zero fire deaths in Minnesota.”

Minnesota Fire Marshal's Office