Let’s clear the air

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Gas can kill! Trust me. I know. After Twin Brother Mark ate broccoli at dinner, by bedtime he was deadly.

When I was young, I thought that was the worst gas one could possible smell, but as a firefighter, I know that’s not the case. There’s one gas even more deadly than what was produced by Mom’s broccoli cheese casserole and Mark at bedtime. A gas you can’t even smell: Carbon monoxide.

As the temperature drops, the use of fireplaces and wood stoves become more prevalent. There’s nothing better than to snuggle with The Wife under a blanket, enjoying a glass of adult beverage while watching orange and blue flames do their dance in the fireplace. Unless, of course, you’re the one who had to cut the wood, split it, then stack it and finally haul it into the house. Good thing The Boy was handy last weekend.

When wood burns in a fireplace or a stove, it has something in common with gas space heaters and kerosene heaters. All give off carbon monoxide gas.

Unlike Mark’s, you can’t smell, taste, or see this gas, but it’s still there. And putting a pillow over your face like I did will not protect you from the deadly fumes, but a cracked window will.

Stoves, fireplaces, and space heaters can rob your home of oxygen, so to solve the problem crack a window to let fresh air in. I just pushed Mark out onto the balcony, locked the sliding glass door and that worked just fine to clear the air.

Fireplaces and wood-burning stoves also have something else in common: Creosote. It is a byproduct of burning wood, and it lines the chimney pipe. Even a one-eighth-inch coating can cause a chimney fire that could produce temperatures as high as 3,000 degrees.

Worried? Shine a flashlight up the chimney, and if you see shiny black stuff, that’s creosote. So before you throw another log on the fire, have a chimney sweep come out and clean your chimney.

When you clean out your fireplace, remember that live coals can stay hot for days, so don’t just dump them outside the back door. But whatever you do, don’t place the ashes into a plastic trash can.

Trust me; growing up I destroyed more trash cans that way than any other. For ashes you need to use a metal container with a metal lid, placing it far away from the house and anything combustible.

Although I did discover that any kind of trash can was fine for ridding myself of a plate full of broccoli cheese casserole. That stuff is dreadful.

Cleaning your chimney should been done at least once a year, and if you have a wood-burning stove used for heating, the chimney should be cleaned more often.

Once a year would have been often enough for Mom’s broccoli cheese casserole; unfortunately we had it twice a month.

Mark didn’t mind; he loved the stuff. He didn’t mind sleeping out on the balcony either. You’d think having a swamp down in the backyard, he’d gotten all bit up by mosquitoes. Nope. Mark had his own special brand of bug repellant, and trust me, it was truly deadly.

In the middle of the night when you get up to put another log on the fire, there’s one more thing you need to remember. All clothing can catch fire.

Some materials, especially bedtime clothing for children, are fire resistant, but are not fireproof. So be careful as you place that nighttime log in the stove or the fireplace. Don’t get too close to the flames.

One last winter safety tip to remember: Now that temperatures are about to take a plunge, bring in your animals. Outdoor cats and dogs need to at least be brought into the carport.

And for you wives out there who are thinking about throwing your husbands out of the house, please wait for warmer temperatures. Even dumb animals need not be out in the cold.

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