Clear vents of snow to prevent CO buildup, urge fire officials

Residences and businesses should clear snow from blocked vents to avoid carbon monoxide buildup inside buildings, urges the Charlottetown Fire Department.

Charlottetown Fire Department has received several calls about carbon monoxide issues

Winston Bryan, Charlottetown fire inspector, says vents can become blocked without people noticing.

The Charlottetown Fire Department is urging people to clear snow from blocked vents to avoid carbon monoxide buildup inside buildings, urges the Charlottetown Fire Department.

Fire officials say they have responded to several calls at residences and businesses in the last few days where blocked vents have caused CO issues.

With so much snow down in recent days and more coming Thursday, vents can become blocked without people realizing, says city fire inspector Winston Bryan.

Vanessa Smith, head of marketing for the Murphy Group of Restaurants, says there was a carbon monoxide buildup at the Merchantman Pub. (CBC)
"Heating appliances, it could be from your fireplace, it could be from a furnace, a propane hot water heater and even a residential drier, electric drier," said Winston Bryan.

"Make sure that they are clear of all snow buildup around these venting units. By doing that, your appliance is going to work properly and it will be a safer environment in that home."

On Tuesday night, firefighters were called to the Merchantman Pub after the smell of propane was detected.

Clear exit routes

When firefighters arrived they found the exhaust and intake vents at the back of the building were clogged with snow.

"It did turn out, once the fire department did arrive, that there was a carbon monoxide leak that had actually mixed with the propane," said Vanessa Smith, the Murphy Group of Restaurants' head of marketing.

The restaurant was closed, but staff were evacuated for about 45 minutes while fire officials ensured everything was fine.

Pub officials say they have since installed three carbon monoxide alarms, and say that other Murphy Group restaurants will now have at least two alarms, even though there are no laws requiring this.

A Stratford couple recently came to CBC to tell their story after a similar carbon monoxide leak nearly killed them.

Carbon monoxide is a gas that is colourless, odourless, tasteless, and highly toxic to humans in high concentrations.

The Charlottetown Fire Department is asking residents and businesses to check that snow isn't blocking building vents.
Bryan says another concern is blocked exit routes from buildings. He says fire officials have been examining apartments and other properties to ensure exits are clear.

"If a fire occurs at your main door, is your second door clear? That's something to always remember and homeowners should keep that in the back of their minds," said Bryan.

For mobile device users: Do you check your vents to ensure they're clear of snow?


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