State fire officials are urging residents to be wary of carbon monoxide poisoning after this week's heavy snow blocked the air vents to several regional homes, especially those with new high-efficiency furnaces.

State Fire Administrator Floyd Madison said several fire departments reported an increase in carbon monoxide calls because snow drifts have covered furnace vents and air intakes, trapping the odorless, colorless gas inside the homes.

"New high-efficiency furnaces vent out the side of a house rather than up through the roof," Madison said. "This type of venting and air intake must be kept free and clear of snow. If it plugs up, the carbon monoxide would go back into the home."

Many newer high-efficiency furnaces automatically shut off if the vents are blocked, but some do not.

The state Office of Fire Prevention is urging residents to inspect the area around their furnace and hot water heater vents to ensure that snow and ice are not blocking them. Homeowners should keep a three-foot area around the vent clear of snow, shrubs and other potential obstructions.

If a CO alarm does sound, people should evacuate the house and call the local fire department.

For more information about carbon monoxide, go to www.dos.state.ny.us/fire/COtoolkit.htm.

Local fire and 911 officials said no weather related carbon monoxide alarms were reported in Cayuga County during the past week.

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