MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – 2017 was the deadliest year for fires in Minnesota in 15 years, according to the Department of Public Safety.

Last year, 63 people died in fires in the state. The last time more than 60 people were killed in fires was 2002, when 64 people died.

Fire deaths jumped 43 percent in 2017 from the year before. Forty-three people died in fires in 2016.

The leading cause of fire deaths in 2017 was careless smoking, which led to nine deaths, DPS said. Four deaths were caused by combustibles too close to a heat source, the second-leading cause. Nineteen people died in fires in which the cause has not been determined.

The least deadly recorded year in Minnesota was 2009, when 35 people were killed in fires. The deadliest was 1976 – 134 people died in fires that year.

State Fire Marshal Bruce West said the spike in deaths is concerning, but it’s hard to identify a reason for the spike.

Seven people have died in fires so far this year.

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