MINNEAPOLIS — Health officials say careless smoking was the leading cause of fatal fires in Minnesota in 2020.

Fifty-three people died in fires last year, a 13% increase over 2019. Seven deaths last year were attributed to careless smoking, the fifth consecutive year it led to fatal fires, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Six victims died in fires that were attributed to gas leaks and five people died in cooking fires, the most since 2013, the department's data showed.

Health officials said 70% of the fire deaths involved people 50 and older and 23% had alcohol in their systems.

The preliminary data shows most deaths occurred in a residence or business, and one in five occurred in a building that did not have a working smoke detector.

DPS spokeswoman Jen Longaecker said the final numbers will be released later this year once hospital officials report their information to the department.