ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A St. Paul man is dead after his kitchen caught fire early Sunday morning.
Fire investigators believe the 31-year-old man was cooking and left his pan unattended.
"Our investigation revealed one of the burners of the stove was on and believed the occupant was heating up some oil or cooking and must have gone in the other room and forgot about it or fell asleep and then succumbed to the fire," said St. Paul fire investigator Jamie Novak.
St. Paul Firefighters were called to the duplex on the 1900 block of Upper Afton Rd. just before 1a.m. after neighbors in the other side of the duplex reported seeing smoke, and hearing pounding on the walls.
Firefighters were able to quickly put out the fire. They found the unresponsive man in a rear bedroom with a slight pulse, but say he died on the way to Regions Hospital.
Family members on scene clearing out his belongings declined comment.
Fire officials say the fire spread to the kitchen cabinets, producing a lot of smoke and gutting the kitchen. The status of the single smoke detector is being investigated. There were no fire sprinklers.
According to authorities, unattended cooking is the leading cause of building fires in Minnesota. Novak says in about 70 percent of homes firefighters enter, at least one smoke detector is not working.
Novak says never put water on a grease fire, because the steam that follows can produce a large fire ball that is even more dangerous. He says take a tight fitting lid with an oven mitt and slide it right over the flames in the pan, then shut off the burner to let it cool for five to ten minutes. If you don't have a lid, the same can be done with a cookie sheet.
Novak also recommends purchasing a small canister known as a Stove Top Fire Stop. It is a device that magnetically locks under your stove hood, and when flames reach the fuse on the bottom side of the canister, it drops fire extinguishing powder to put out the fire. The canisters can be purchased in pairs at Lowe's Hardware or Frattalone's Hardware stores for around $50 a package.
"Between the smoke detector and having this," said Novak, pointing up the fire stop, "the person today probably never would have died."
This is the first fire death in St. Paul this year.
For more tips on how to prevent kitchen fires, watch Boyd Huppert's KARE 11 Extra on kitchen fires from last spring.
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