Fire Marshal: Low Temps Raise Concerns about CO Poisoning, Ash Disposal

As the temperature drops as it has been (and appears for at least the near future) I begin to worry about a couple of things—carbon monoxide or ‘CO’ poisoning and fireplace ash disposal.

Fire Marshal Fred Baker. Credit: Michael Dinan

With the cold weather we tend to close up our homes and our heating systems are working overtime to keep up with the demand. We also want to warm up our cars before we venture out into the cold abyss.

Recently, we have talked about how improper disposal of fireplace ashes is such a big problem (firefighters just held their drawing for free ash disposal cans). However, a fire in Weston on Christmas Day destroyed a garage/barn. The cause: ashes dumped into the trash cans adjacent to the structure. Fortunately no one was hurt but the structure was destroyed.

CO is the byproduct of incomplete combustion so it can be all around us—cars, boilers, furnaces, water heaters, generators, pressure washers, air compressors, gas fireplaces/logs—you get the picture.

Following are a few tips to help keep you and your family safe during this deep freeze:

  • Never run vehicles inside the garage – even with the doors open. Back them out.
  • Generators, etc., must be run outdoors – at least 10’ from the structure.
  • Install CO detectors – at least one per floor in your home.
  • If you must, use metal trashcans with a tight lid to dispose ashes – embers can remain hot for several days after the fire has gone out.
  • Have working smoke detectors located at least one per floor in your home.

If you have a security system, the smoke detectors are tied to that system. Proper, annual, servicing is a must to insure proper protection.

If your CO detector activates, move to fresh air immediately and call 911. Firefighters will respond and meter the structure for CO levels.

Please feel free to contact the Fire Marshal’s Office at 203-594-3030 with any questions. We will even come out to your home to assist is verifying everything is in order. Be safe!

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