Preliminary figures show a big jump in the number of people who died in fires in Minnesota last year.
According to the Minnesota Public Safety Department’s State Fire Marshal Division, 51 people died in fires in 2011. That compares with 39 in 2010.
Officials say last year’s number is an anomaly, since the number of fire deaths has been trending downward fairly consistently since the 1980s.
State Fire Marshal Jerry Rosendahl says that six fires accounted for 17 deaths in 2011. Three deaths were ruled suicide, while 16 involved alcohol or drugs. Twelve people died in fires caused by careless smoking or unattended candles.
Minnesota’s all-time low fire-death total was 35 in 2009. The high was 134 in 1976.