Duluth Fire Department: ‘Unprecedented’ Number of Structure Fires in 2020

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DULUTH, Minn. – The Duluth Fire Department says they responded to 141 structure fires in 2020; an increase of 51 structure fires compared to the year prior.

According to the fire department, this was the first time since 2015 they had responded to more than 100 structure fires in one year.

“We saw a big uptick in kitchen fires which we relate to a lot of people being home due to COVID-19,” Chief Shawn Krizaj said. “It is really easy to walk away from cooking for a distraction, but this is the number one reason why fires get started in the kitchen.”

The department says it saw its first decrease in medical calls since 2017, responding to 433 fewer calls than in 2019 when they responded to 5,489 calls.

“In talking with our medical partners, this data is consistent with medical providers’ analysis of people avoiding coming in for medical care until it is an emergency,” Chief Krizaj said. “We heard firsthand from patients that they did not want to go to the hospital because of the risk of getting COVID-19.”

According to a recent press release, calls for water emergencies also decreased by three incidents from 2019.

“As we have seen during the pandemic, people like to be outside,” said Deputy Chief Scott Kleive. “Duluth is fortunate to have a lot of trails and water for people to enjoy. What is shifting is the number of people who we see enjoying being on the water for different recreational purposes all year long instead of in the summer months.”

While fire stations remain closed to the public due to the pandemic, the Department is hopeful to open its doors again in 2021.

“We hope to open up our fire stations for public tours, public events, car seat demonstrations, and more sometime this year,” Chief Krizaj said. “A big part of what we do is to provide education and inform the public of how they can prevent fires and stay safe. We have done a lot of educational videos but are all looking forward to providing this service in-person again soon.”

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