COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Columbia Fire Department is urging residents to take safety precautions when using heating appliances to stay warm this winter.
Battalion Chief Brad Fraizer said it's not just the possibility of a fire that's dangerous.
"Any fuel-burning appliance has the possibility of creating carbon monoxide, which is very deadly," Fraizer said.
Appliances like the wood burning stove, space heaters and even the water heater can cause carbon monoxide problems if they aren't working the way they should.
During the 2010-2011 winter, the fire department responded to 27 carbon monoxide incidents. This past winter, they responded to 11.
Fraizer told ABC 17 News that 11 is still a high number for carbon monoxide incidents.
He said it's important to get things like fireplaces and chimneys checked annually before use after that have been sitting all summer.
"In the case of fireplaces, you want to make sure that it's venting properly," Fraizer said. "If it's not venting properly, it can cause smoke, and again, the possibility of carbon monoxide goes up."
Chimneys should also be inspected by a licensed technician as buildup can cause a fire.
There are other ways people heat their homes that Fraizer says is extremely dangerous.
"We've seen in some instances where people will use their stove to heat their home," he said.
Space heaters are another appliance that can start fires if they are left unattended or set too close to combustible object. Fraizer said space heaters should always be kept a minimum of 3 feet away from anything that could catch on fire.
He also said even if people take all of these safety precautions, he still urges people to keep carbon monoxide detectors in their homes, just in case.