ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ The State Fire Marshal says fire deaths in Minnesota dropped 47 percent in 2018.

A total of 36 people died last year in fires in Minnesota, according to preliminary figures released Thursday by the Department of Public Safety's State Fire Marshal Division . That's down from 68 fire deaths in 2017.

The decline comes after a deadly fire year in 2017, which recorded Minnesota's most fire deaths since 1995.

State Fire Marshal Bruce West credits Minnesota fire departments for going into their communities and teaching people about fire prevention and safety.
So far there have been two fire deaths in Minnesota in 2019 _ one in Brainerd and one in St. Paul.

Careless smoking was the leading cause of fatal fires in Minnesota last year, followed by cooking and portable heaters.