MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In the past week, four separate fires have forced people from their homes around the state. Unattended cigarettes are to blame for fires in Mankato, Rochester, Hopkins, and Minneapolis, despite a 2008 law meant to reduce the risk of starting a fire.

At the Arches in Art apartment building in Minneapolis, one unit is now off limits. Paul Gerber, a contractor, and his team were sent in to secure the apartment after an early morning fire on Friday.

“I heard the guy was smoking. I don’t know if he fell asleep or what,” said Gerber.

Fire crews do blame the damage on careless smoking. A cigarette left near a couch caught on fire.

“This is a total gut down. It’s probably $100,000,” said Gerber.

A similar incident damaged a Hopkins apartment building on Monday.

“It was so much smoke, I couldn’t breathe anymore,” said Eliecer Ramirez-Vargas, who helped wake people when he saw the fire in Hopkins.

The built-in buffer to reduce the risk of fires caused by cigarettes didn’t work. Since 2008, cigarettes have been wrapped with extra bands of less porous paper called speed bumps, which will cause the smoke to go out if left unattended.

“The last couple of years, we’ve noticed what I consider a big decrease in the smoking fires about 30 percent,” said State Fire Marshall Jerry Rosendahl.

While the upgraded standards have cut down on the number of calls, State Fire Marshall Jerry Rosendahl said, there’s still a risk. How smokers dispose of their cigarette has a biggest role in fire prevention.

“It takes a little bit of time for that cigarette to still burn before it goes out,” said Rosendahl.

The number of cigarette-related fires has dropped, but the number of fire deaths has not had a big decline. In 2010, there were seven deaths in fires from smoking. In 2011, there have been six.

Fire Marshall Rosendahl said, often time, those fires are linked to drinking and drugs.

He said, in most cases, a person passes out while smoking. The cigarette isn’t put out and then the fire ignites.

Comments (11)
  1. No says:

    Despite laws, DWI’s remain a problem
    Despite laws, drugs remain a problem
    Despite laws, child porn remains a problem
    There will always be problems – we do the best we can. One cannot control stupidity no matter what

    1. ez says:

      so true. it really is a shame.

  2. Ines Beag says:

    Going on 60 and am still amazed that no one has passed a law that says ‘Because common sense (90+%) of people should know that if you do X, Y will happen’. Good example(add yours here), if you spill hot coffee in you crouch, it will hurt.

  3. Merry Christmas from Up North says:

    Surprises me. I have a heck of a time keeping a cigarette going if I set it in an ashtray!

    1. homeless says:

      LOL, so very true……unless someone want a fire , like just add a mattress or couch to the burning cigarettes and what do you have. a big fire

  4. laupforod says:

    if your too dumb to put out your smoke then your too dumb to smoke..hmmm.

  5. Jeanne says:

    The number of cigarette caused fire deaths has declined substantially. A decade ago the number of cigarette caused fire deaths were always in double digits, often 20 or more per year. The new design is saving lives, but as with all products, there are failures and some cigarette caused fires are inevitable as long as there are smokers. The number of cigarette caused fire deaths per year is miniscule compared to the number killed by cigarette caused diseases including heart and lung disease and numerous cancers.

  6. Kara says:

    It is encouraging to hear that cigarette-related fires are on the decline, but it is important to keep in mind that deaths due to cigarette-related fires have not substantially declined. The good news is that fire-related deaths caused by cigarettes are preventable through smoke-free building policies; policies that not only protect the health and well-being of all residents, but protect property owner’s investments, and decrease cleaning and renovation costs for property managers.

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