ST. PAUL - After a particularly deadly 2017, the number of people killed in Minnesota fires dropped nearly in half last year.

There were 36 people killed in fires in 2018, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division reported Thursday. That is a 47 percent decline from the year before when there were 68.

While saying it is hard to pinpoint a reason for the drop, State Fire Marshal Bruce West credited outreach efforts by fire departments teaching fire prevention and fire safety.

The 36 deaths are the second lowest total in the past 48 years. There were 35 deaths in 2009.

There have already been two fatal fires in Minnesota this year, including one in St. Paul.

The causes behind Minnesota’s fatal fires last year included careless smoking, which resulted in five deaths; cooking, three deaths and portable heaters, two deaths.

The cause remained undetermined in 20 deaths. And there is a chance the number could rise yet. The number of fire deaths won’t become official until Minnesota hospitals finish filing reports.