Fairbanks, AK – FAIRBANKS With power still out in parts of Fairbanks, people have been calling Alaska Best Plumbing and Heating to ask if they should use camp stoves or other propane or kerosene-fueled devices to stay warm.
And Cheryl Dowle, Alaska Best Plumbing and Heating’s accountant, says that’s a firm “no.”
“We’ve had several calls and several people to use kerosene heaters basically the gas-powered heating for inside their homes and, unfortunately, those tend to put off carbon monoxide, which can kill you,” she said. “It’s not a safe option. I would not recommend it all.”
There was one incident of carbon monoxide poisoning reported to the University Fire Department on Thursday, said Battalion Chief Pat Mead.
“Any open flame appliances used in the house will create carbon monoxide, and we’ve already got one call today from carbon monoxide. We don’t know the exact method, but we did have one so far,” he said. “People need to be very cautious about using generators, need to make sure they’re outside and that the exhaust is pointed well away from windows. And be cautious about using any fuel indoors.”
He said there were two people affected by the incident. They were taken to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. Mead said their condition was not immediately available.
Carbon monoxide is produced from burning fuels, such as gasoline, lanterns, charcoal and wood.
With temperatures hovering around freezing, Dowle said, it might be chilly, but people don’t need to worry about their pipes freezing for a few days.
“People are afraid that their houses are freezing, but it’s not a risk at this temperature. Yes, it’s uncomfortable but it’s not cold enough,” she said. “Right now we’re at 32 degrees. It would have to be several days for their power to be turned off for that to become an issue. If they’re on city water and don’t need a pump, they can turn their faucets on just a little bit. Running water is not going to freeze nearly as quickly as water that is standing still.”
And even if freezing becomes a possibility, if power stays out for days or the temperatures plummet, she said outdoor generators can be used to power electric heaters. But even under those circumstances, she said it’s not worth risking injury from toxic carbon monoxide.
“I’d hate to see someone killing themselves just to stay warm,” she said. “There are places they can go to stay warm and your house is just a house. … That’s why we have insurance.”
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it can cause headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. Extreme exposure to carbon monoxide can result in loss of consciousness and death.