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Calgary Fire Department warns about CO poisoning

It may only be the beginning of November, but the Calgary Fire Department is already answering carbon monoxide calls.

Furnaces are firing up for the cold weather, but many of them haven’t been serviced in years.

“Carbon monoxide is a result of incomplete combustion, which typically means that you may have dirty pilots, you may have dirty burners so the cleaner you can clean your appliances the better,” said Dan Nicolajsen, with Atco Gas.

Last year, firefighters responded to over 1,800 carbon monoxide calls, and in most cases a lack of regular maintenance was the reason. Something as simple as a dirty filter can cut off air supply to a furnace and produce CO gas.

Bruce Littke has a lot of gas appliances in his home, including a stove, a dryer, two fireplaces, the furnace and hot water tanks.

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He understands the dangers of carbon monoxide.

“We get our appliances inspected on an annual basis to make sure they’re burning properly and everything is working properly,” Littke said.

Gas fireplaces are often forgotten. If the flame is a yellow orange, it’s not burning clean.

“There’s a lot of airborne dirt and dust that can clog up what are called venturis on the burner systems. This is where your gas and air mixes before the fireplace burns the gas,” fireplace technician Bill Luke said.

On older fireplaces, the seal around the glass door can dry out, allowing carbon monoxide to enter the house.

If you have a wood fireplace, always keep a window open for fresh air ventilation.

Remember to have the chimney and fire box cleaned to cut down on creosote build-up, which can catch fire.

In addition to regular maintenance, every home should have carbon monoxide detectors.

Many either don’t have one at all or they have expired.

“Some people might have carbon monoxide alarms but they’re 10, 12, 15 years old, so different carbon monoxide alarms have different life spans,” said Carol Henke, public information officer with the Calgary Fire Department.

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You should also check the vents outside to make sure they are not blocked, which can cut off air to the appliances.