Cool, crisp air brings hidden dangers

Cool, crisp air brings hidden dangers

This beautiful fall weather brings with it lots of nostalgic football games and hot chocolates, crunchy leaves underfoot and the smell of burning wood in the air. It’s hard not to love it after one of the hottest summers on record in our area. Before you light that first fire though, be sure to have your chimney checked by a certified chimney professional.

Picture this: Mom comes down early to get breakfast going, with her hubby and little ones all still tucked warmly in bed. She finds the house quite chilly, perhaps after a few windows are left open over night, and decides to get a fire going in the wood stove.

Photo source

Photo source
photography by Rob Karosis (for illustration only)

After a few minutes the smoke alarm goes off and she thinks nothing of it, except to just get that sound off as soon as possible before it wakes everyone up! A few minutes later her head is throbbing as that silly alarm starts ringing again.

This time she takes it off the wall to see how to turn it off – maybe even considering removing the batteries. As she turns it over in her hands, she sees the instructions on the back:

“If alarm sounds: 1) operate reset/silence button, 2) call your emergency services (9-1-1), 3) immediately move to fresh air.

Mom immediately calls 9-1-1 and gets her family outside. When firefighters arrive they find that the home is registering 100 parts per million on their CO detectors – more than 3 times what is considered a safe level.

For a family of six in Milwaukie, Oregon this was real life. Two weeks ago they were rescued just in time and survived carbon-monoxide poisoning from an improperly vented wood stove. After treatment with Oxygen, the poisonous CO was cleared from their bodies and this family was able to reenter their home, alive.

According to Rick Bella of The Oregonian, the spokesman for the local Fire District said that “the stove’s vent pipe was too small, causing incomplete combustion in the stove’s firebox and forcing carbon monoxide into the room.”

“Clackamas Fire District 1 Firefighter Mark Webster replaces a woodstove’s vent pipe after a Milwaukie-area family suffered carbon monoxide poisoning caused by inadequate venting.”

Remember that carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, so a CO detector is the only way to know if it is present. The symptoms of CO poisoning usually come too late to be an adequate warning.  In this case, after the house was cleared of CO, professionals were able to replace the deadly vent pipe with the correct size.

Rebecca Beardsley of Chimney Cricket, Inc.*, says that burning inside your home always comes with certain dangers, but that it is even more critical, as the cool, fall air sets in, to make sure your chimneys are checked before you burn or turn on your central heating.  Hidden blockages can not only be caused by poor or improper design, but also from normal wear and tear from exposure to the elements and the corrosive effects of rain mixed with chimney deposits, along with small animals that find their way in to nest throughout the spring and summer.

So don’t wait. Call your certified chimney professional today. Burning safely is a matter of life or death.

*Chimney Cricket is a locally owned and operated chimney service and repair company serving Delaware County for over 30 years. Friends will receive $15 off heater and fireplace sweeps from now through October 31. Contact us at 610-328-3084 or


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