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Mpls. FD: Fire Death Toll Highest In 35 Years

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A growing number of deadly fires in Minneapolis have officials preaching safety.

Since the beginning of the year, 10 people, including five children, have died in fires in Minneapolis.

Fire Chief John Fruetel says it's been more than 35 years since the fire department has seen this many deaths.

"We've had a number of tragedies in the city," Chief Fruetel said.

It started on New Year's Day with an explosion at the Cedar Riverside apartments that killed three people.

Then on Valentine's Day, there was a heart-wrenching tragedy in north Minneapolis when five children died in a fire.

And earlier this week, a fire claimed the lives of a north Minneapolis couple, who were found by firefighters in their bedroom.

"We all take this very personally," Fruetel said. "It's not something that we can control, and a lot of these are accidental, and sometimes you can't explain them."

The chief called on fellow chiefs and fire marshals Friday to help spread a message about prevention.

Firefighters say while most fires they respond to are from cooking, most deadly fires are caused by smoking.

"Many of these tragedies are killing or injuring people long before the fire departments even get called," said St. Paul Fire Chief Tim Butler.

Firefighters gave WCCO a demonstration of how quick and effective sprinkler systems are, and they touched on the simple steps homeowners can take.

"Don't go to sleep tonight without pressing that little test button on the bottom of your smoke alarm," Chief Butler said.

Officials also say to make an escape plan and practice it. Fire officials hope these reminders will save lives.

"If we can minimize or eliminate at least one of these tragedies, and minimize one or eliminate one fire death, all of the effort we put in today … is well worth it," Chief Fruetel said.

Minneapolis firefighters will come out to your home and install a new smoke detector and make sure it's working right. Call 311 for more information on fire safety and prevention.

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