Recent fire deaths in state reminder for safety

MARSHALL — It was the second house fire call in a week for the Marshall Fire Department.

Fortunately, a kitchen fire reported Friday morning was not as serious as a fatal Christmas Day fire that destroyed a home on Elaine Avenue. But with the holiday season and cold weather bringing people indoors, Marshall Fire Chief Marc Klaith said it’s important for area residents to take care to help prevent accidental fires.

Several house and apartment fire deaths have been reported around Minnesota in the past week.

On Friday, a kitchen fire was reported at a home on the 100 block of George Street. Klaith said the fire was caused by a toaster. Something fell on top of the toaster while it was in use, and caught on fire, he said.

The fire made a lot of smoke in the house, Klaith said. However, there were no injuries reported.

The time period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s can sometimes be risky for fires in the home, Klaith said. Holiday celebrations and cold temperatures mean there can be more people and activity in the house than usual, and more opportunities for an accidental fire to start. Klaith cautioned people to slow down, and be aware of situations around them.

On Monday, the Marshall Fire Department responded to a much larger fire, which destroyed a home on Elaine Avenue. A resident of the house, 49-year-old Kent Sikorski, died as a result of the fire. That fire is under investigation by the State Fire Marshal and local law enforcement.

The number of fire deaths across Minnesota has spiked this year, with fires claiming more than 60 lives, compared to 36 in 2016, the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office said. Deaths in Marshall, Lakeville, Hibbing and Ely were all reported over the past week. In Hibbing, two adults and two children died after a house fire in the early hours of December 26. The same day, a house fire in Lakeville also killed one man. On December 28, one person was found dead after a fire in an apartment building in Ely.

According to reports from the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office, some of the most common causes of structure fires are cooking and heating. In 2016, cooking was the leading cause of structure fires. Some of the most common factors that contributed to cooking fires were leaving cooking equipment unattended, having flammable materials too close to a heat source, and leaving cooking equipment turned on.

Another major cause of structure fires in 2016 was heating, the Fire Marshal’s Office said. Of 275 heating-related fires reported that year, the majority happened in residential properties. More than half of the heating-related fires involved a fireplace or chimney.

Holiday decorations and lights, and heat sources like candles, can add to the risk of a home fire. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends that candles be kept 12 inches away from things that can burn, and that burning candles never be left alone. The Fire Administration also recommends discarding Christmas light strands that have frayed or pinched wires, and not leaving Christmas lights on unattended or overnight. A live Christmas tree can be dangerous when it’s dried out, the Fire Administration said, so it’s a good idea to get rid of the tree after Christmas or when it is dry.