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This Unseen Hazard Of Winter Weather Can Be Deadly

MARIPOSA — With mountain area residents experiencing power outages, some may decide to use alternate means to produce heat. Cal Fire reminds everyone that a bad choice can be deadly.

You can’t see or smell carbon monoxide, but at high levels it can kill a person in minutes.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. If appliances that burn fuel are maintained and used properly, the amount of CO produced is usually not hazardous. However, if appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result.

Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances. Even more die from CO produced by idling cars. Fetuses, infants, elderly people, and people with anemia or with a history of heart or respiratory disease can be especially susceptible.

Know the symptoms of CO poisoning. At moderate levels, you or your family can get severe headaches, become dizzy, mentally confused, nauseated, or faint. You can even die if these levels persist for a long time.

Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild headaches, and may have longer term effects on your health. Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses, you may not think that CO poisoning could be the cause.

Follow these guidelines to help keep your family safer.

  • Install CO alarms outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home including the basement.
  • Keep CO alarms clear of dust and debris.
  • Ensure CO alarm is plugged into a working outlet or batteries are good.
  • Don’t use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time.
  • Don’t idle the car in a garage — even if the garage door to the outside is open. Fumes can build up very quickly in the garage and living area of your home.
  • Don’t ever use a charcoal grill indoors — even in a fireplace.
  • Don’t sleep in any room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.
  • Don’t run a generator inside your home.
  • Don’t ignore symptoms, particularly if more than one person is feeling them. You could lose consciousness and die if you do nothing.

Play it Safe – If you experience symptoms that you think could be from CO poisoning:

  • CALL 911 or your local emergency number.
  • Get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows, turn off combustion appliances, leave the house.
  • Do not re-enter the premises until cleared by emergency personnel.
  • Go to an emergency room and tell the physician you suspect CO poisoning.

For more information visit Cal Fire’s website at

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