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Firefighters urge homeowners to check carbon monoxide detectors

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With colder temperatures in the forecast, many people will be turning up their thermostats to stay warm. Local fire officials warn the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases during this time.

Numbers from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), show fire departments across Illinois responded nearly 9,000 carbon monoxide incidents in 2018.

Carbon Monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas. It is often caused by faulty furnaces and other heating sources.

Symptoms of poisoning are similar to the flu and include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness.

The state says annually, these fires have lead to the loss of 490 lives, 1,400 injuries and account for around $1 Billion in direct property damage.

Half of home heating fires are reported during the months of December, January and February.

The Tri-Township Fire Protection District and state officials are encouraging people to have their furnaces checked and to make sure carbon monoxide are working.

"It's really important if you hear that chirping to check the back of the alarm to see what it says," Tri-Township Firefighter Casey Otten said.

"It will let you know, if it needs batteries replaced or if it's an older detector it needs to be replaced completely," Otten said.

Other signs of possible carbon monoxide in your home include condensation on walls and windows, house pets becoming sluggish and chronic odors from malfunctioning appliances.

If you suspect you may be experiencing these symptoms, you should leave your home and call 911.

Fossil fuels like natural gas are used to heat a vast majority of Illinois homes, and malfunctioning heating equipment leads to accidental carbon monoxide deaths.

These can include your home’s furnace, improperly vented gas appliances, kerosene or propane space heaters, charcoal grills and Sterno-type fuels, according to the state.

More winter heating safety tips:

• Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional; change furnace filters frequently.
• Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturers’ instructions.
• Keep interior and exterior air vents clear of blockages or obstructions.
• Keep anything that can burn at least three-feet away from heating equipment, like a furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
• Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before being placed into a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
• Create a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
• Test smoke and CO alarms at least once a month and be familiar with the sounds they make.
• Never use an oven or range to heat your home.
• Remember to turn off portable or space heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
• Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors on each floor of your home and within 15 feet of each sleeping area.
• CO detectors have a limited life span, check the manufacturer’s instructions for information on replacement.

Don Dwyer

Don Dwyer is a Morning Anchor/Reporter at WGEM.

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