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Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide (abbreviated CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that bonds to the hemoglobin in your bloodstream, displacing the oxygen in your cells and can result in death.

CO is created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, CO can come from gas or oil furnaces, boilers, and water heaters, as well as vehicles, motors, and grills.

Symptoms of CO poisoning start with a mild headache, then nausea and dizziness. It can lead to collapse and unconsciousness.  At extreme levels of CO, 1-3 minutes of exposure can be fatal.


  • Have your heating system inspected yearly by a professional.

  • If you need to warm up a vehicle, be sure to move it out of your garage immediately after starting.

  • Don’t run any vehicle, fueled engine, or motor indoors, even if you have the garage door open.

  • Following a snowstorm, make sure the exhaust vents for your dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow.

  • Charcoal and gas grills can also produce CO, so make sure that they are only operated outside.

NFPA recommendations on CO detectors:

  • Install in a central area on each level of your home

  • Test monthly and replace according to the manufacturer’s instructions

  • If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.

  • If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move outdoors to get fresh air. Make sure everyone gets out of the home and is accounted for. Call 911 and stay outside until the fire department arrives.

Chimney Fires

Myth #1: Chimney fires don’t hurt my chimney, it just saves me having to sweep it this year!
Chimney fires burn up to 2000 degrees, which is much hotter than chimneys are built to handle.  The rapid rise in temperature can crack liners and damage the outer masonry.  Your first chimney fire might not do any noticeable damage, while your second might burn your house to the ground.

Myth #2: If it’s clean, it’s safe, right?
Simply looking up the chimney and seeing light isn’t enough.  There may be damage to your chimney that you don’t know about because it is out of sight.  Cracked liner inside your chimney can allow heat to penetrate into your home.  If there are combustible materials (wood framing, etc) too close to the chimney, they can spontaneously combust and set fire to the home.

What causes a chimney fire? When wood is burned, by-products of combustion condense inside the flue, leaving a flammable deposit – this is creosote.  When creosote ignites, that is a chimney fire.  Creosote is highly combustible, so it doesn’t have to be a large build-up to cause a fire.  An 1/8 inch is enough!

What to do in case of a chimney fire:

  • Get everyone out of the house

  • Call your local emergency dispatch center at 911

  • After it’s over, call a professional chimney cleaning service to inspect and clean the system.

Preventing a chimney fire:

  • Burn dry, seasoned wood

  • Operate your stove or furnace in the correct temperature range

  • Never burn trash or cardboard boxes

  • Consider upgrading to a high-efficiency wood stove or fireplace

  • Have it swept and inspected yearly by a professional

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