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Smoking causes fatal house fire in northeast Minnesota

House Fire

EVELETH, MN (KBJR) - State officials say smoking has been ruled as the cause of a house fire that killed an Eveleth, Minnesota woman.

Bonnie Mae Phinney, 77, was inside her Eveleth home when it went up in flames around 11 a.m. January 14.

The fire destroyed the home in northeast Minnesota.

According to the State Fire Marshal's office, Phinney is one of eight Minnesotans who have died in fires between January 9, 2020 and January 24, 2020. Four of those deaths were smoking-related.

Smoking is typically the leading cause of fatal fires each year in Minnesota, the state said.

Fire officials offer the following tips to avoid becoming victim to a smoking-related fire:

-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.

Preliminary investigations also show seven of the eight victims who died in fires this year are over age 50. 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."

At least seven people died in smoking-related fires in 2019. That number could rise as investigators continue determining fire causes.

Ninety-four people died in smoking-related fires between 2009 and 2019.

"Smoking can kill you more ways than one," Smith said. "Year after year, people die in preventable smoking-related fires and, to be honest, it's frustrating."

Clint Berge

Clint Berge is the Social Media & Digital Content Manager for Eau Claire’s Own WQOW News 18.
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