On Tuesday, Jan. 14, Virginia Kruger, age 83, of Montevideo, died in an apartment fire. According to Minnesota State Fire Marshall Jim Smith, Kruger’s was one of four fire deaths in Minnesota since Jan. 9 that appear to be smoking-related. In fact, according to Smith, smoking is typically the leading cause of fatal fires each year in Minnesota. At this time last year, there were three fire deaths.

Between Jan. 9 and Jan. 23, eight people died in Minnesota fires. According to preliminary investigations, four of those deaths were most likely smoking-related. The others were in Maple Grove on Jan. 9, in Eveleth on Jan. 14, and St. Paul on Jan. 18. The average age of victims who died in smoking-related fires between 2009 and 2019 is 61.

“These deaths are often happening to vulnerable people who are alone,” Smith said. “That’s why we are asking family members and anyone in contact with older smokers to look in on them and help them be safe.”

The fire marshall’s office recommends the following tips to prevent smoking-related fires:

  • Smoke outside and extinguish cigarettes in a sturdy ashtray filled with sand or water.
  • Do not discard cigarettes in potted plants, leaves, mulch or other vegetation.
  • Do not smoke while on oxygen or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.