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Take precautions and save lives from house fire

Last year in Minnesota, 52 people lost their lives in fires. Another 144 were injured seriously enough to require transport or treatment by fire department responders -- and we don't even know how many suffered less threatening injuries caused by preventable fires or accidents. We do know that most fire deaths and burn injuries take place at home. That clearly means we need to do a better job of educating ourselves and our children about fire safety and burn prevention.

Oct. 4-10 was Fire Prevention Week in Minnesota. Sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association, Fire Prevention Week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. But more than that, it's an annual opportunity to consider our own behavior and commit ourselves to fire safety. These appeals can seem mundane -- we're always being reminded by someone to do something -- until one malfunction or human error results in flames, injuries or worse. Then we wish we'd listened. I'm sure any fire or burn victim would agree.

Some fire departments give away smoke detectors. Others have mini-lessons in CPR or other skills. You might also visit the NFPA Web site for tips, especially if you have children. The 2009 site has outstanding materials for grades K-6 that make it easy to teach fire-safe behaviors. You'll find information in the "For Consumers" section on everything from appliances to arson, from vehicle fires to high-rise building escape. Spend some time exploring the site, and I guarantee that you'll find something you didn't know. It might be the one fact that keeps you from having to deal with the pain and loss a preventable fire can inflict.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Fire Marshal Division and fire departments across Minnesota are dedicated to keeping our people and their homes safe from devastating fires. Please join them in their effort, and make Minnesota a safer place to live.

Jerry Rosendahl

Minnesota State Fire Marshal

St. Paul