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Minnesota Fire marshal urges residents to take online safety challenge

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ST. PAUL -- A Minnesota fire department has developed an online questionnaire designed to help people stop home fires before they start.

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The Home Safety Challenge was developed by the Spring Lake Park-Mounds View Fire Department and is available at www.mnhomesafetychallenge.org or at fire.state.mn.us.

Jerry Rosendahl, the state fire marshal, encourages citizens to use the 37-question quiz, which takes a few minutes to complete, to learn what issues and behaviors they need to address in their own residence, their school, church or business.

"The Home Safety Challenge website addresses both of those solutions clearly and helpfully," Rosendahl says in a news release. "Anyone can learn something new by using this tool, and it is fun to do."

"Fire in Minnesota," the State Fire Marshal Division 2011 Annual Report compiled from data reported by 98 percent of the state's fire departments, continues to show that fires in apartments, houses and other dwellings are the most common. A fire is reported every 35 minutes in the state.

In 2011, 56 people died in fires, compared with 35 deaths in 2009 and 39 in 2010.

State fire departments responded to a total of 14,814 fires, including 5,039 residential blazes, 486 fires in public buildings, 1,005 fires in industrial or manufacturing facilities, 2,708 fires of mobile property including cars, buses, trains, boats and buses and 5,576 other fires, including grass, wildland and trash fires.

The total dollar value of the property lost in those fires was $151 million.

Visitors to the Home Safety Challenge site are taken through a list of questions about fire dangers in the home. At the end, they receive a score and a list of resources to help eliminate potential problems or learn more about fire safety behavior. Because residential dwellings vary widely, three different videos focus on fire issues in single-family homes, apartments and older adults' homes, and manufactured homes. A downloadable brochure contains specific advice for parents, caregivers, renters, older adults and residents of manufactured housing.

Rosendahl believes that anyone who spends time on the Home Safety Challenge website can gain the tools to prevent residential fires.

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