As temperatures drop and Merrittonians seek comfort and warmth indoors, the Merritt Fire Rescue Department is reminding locals to be wary of “the invisible killer.” Carbon monoxide, a dangerous gas produced by common household appliances, is responsible for the deaths of roughly 300 Canadians each year. With proper preparation and education, the MFRD says this risk can be largely reduced and mitigated. 

Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as gasoline, propane, natural gas, wood, and coal burn incompletely. It is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that can have severe health consequences if areas producing or containing the gas are not properly ventilated. Symptoms include a dull headache, dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath. Carbon monoxide poisoning is extremely dangerous – potentially even deadly.

“This is the time of year where people start burning fuels to keep warm, like running furnaces and fireplaces,” said Gareth Tilt, firefighter and public education coordinator for the MFRD.

“When those sources burn incompletely, and when they’re not venting the way that they should, that can create some issues where carbon monoxide builds up in areas where we gather.”

The operation of common appliances such as gas-fired furnaces, boilers, hot water tanks, and stoves can produce carbon monoxide, when the source fuels are burned incompletely. Proper ventilation and maintenance, along with carbon monoxide detectors, are a must in homes. Carbon monoxide detectors should be tested monthly and have their batteries replaced every six months, similar to the cycle of smoke detectors. Combination units can be found that detect both smoke and carbon monoxide.

When testing combined units, users should learn to identify the often different beeps between the smoke detector versus the carbon monoxide detector. Detectors should be placed throughout the home in regular intervals, as carbon monoxide gasses often mix with the air and follow drafts throughout a space. 

“We’d like to see them around the sleeping quarters in particular, largely due to the fact that’s a time when people have all their doors closed, and airflow isn’t great,” added Tilt.

“If you are affected by carbon monoxide, you ideally want to be outside in fresh air, or at the very least an open window or door that’s got fresh air coming in. They [detectors] should be in a central location, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home. If they can be interconnected, that’s what we would love to see.” 

As the winter season approaches, Tilt reminds Merrittonians to warm up their vehicle in their driveway rather than a garage, and highlights the danger of the use of propane heaters and barbecues indoors. Vents, including those leading to furnaces and dryers, should be cleaned regularly to mitigate fire risk. 

For more information and resources by the Merritt Fire Rescue Department, visit, or call the station at 250-378-5626.