MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Officials are cautioning safety this holiday season after seeing an increase in fire deaths in Minnesota this year.

According to the Department of Public Safety, there have been 56 fire deaths in the state in 2017 – a 30 percent increase over last year’s 43 deaths.

Fifty-six is still well short of the all-time high – in 1976, 134 people died in fires in Minnesota. There were 57 deaths in 2015, which was the highest in over a decade. The year 2002 saw 64 fire deaths in the state.

DPS said the holidays are especially dangerous when it comes to fires – last year, more than a quarter of all fire deaths came in November, December and January.

According to DPS, the three leading causes of residential fires are cooking, heating and open flames. Careless smoking is the No. 1 cause of fatal fires.

Officials offered a few tips to prevent fires:

  • Carefully watch your cooking
  • Don’t plug space heaters into extension cords
  • Use flameless candles for holiday decorations
  • Water your Christmas tree – a dry tree can easily catch fire
  • Don’t put wrapping paper in the fireplace
  • Smoke outside, put out your cigarettes properly, don’t smoke near oxygen and don’t smoke while intoxicated
  • Test your smoke alarms before holiday gatherings

Minnesota’s least deadly year for fires was 2009, when 35 people were killed in blazes.

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