Deaths in residential fires last year in Minnesota were down 14 percent from 2012, according to preliminary data from state safety officials.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety's State Fire Marshal Division said there were 43 deaths from fires in homes in 2013. There were 50 in 2012 and 56 in 2011.

January of this year, however, saw five residential fire fatalities. There were three in January 2013.

"While we are encouraged the number of fatalities is down, we all must work together to make sure every Minnesotan understands how to prevent fires and how to escape them," State Fire Marshal Bruce West said.

The state's all-time low fire-death figure was 35 in 2009; the high was 134 in 1976.

Figures were preliminary because reports from Minnesota burn centers and hospitals are not yet final, and the state's fire departments are still sending data to the State Fire Marshal Division to be compiled over the next few months. Final numbers will be released later this year.

Safety officials said there are several steps residents can take to limit the risk of fire:

• Install smoke alarms on every level of the home. Replace batteries at least once a year.

• Use flameless candles instead of real ones.

• Never leave food cooking on the stove unattended.

• Keep flammable materials at least 18 inches from an open flame.

• Have a residential escape plan.

• Consider installing fire sprinklers.