The Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic (WFPS) service is reminding homeowners of one simple piece of maintenance that could save lives this winter.

Fred de Groot is the Public Education Officer with the WFPS. He says that people with high-efficiency furnaces need to ensure their fresh air intake and exhaust pipes are free from snow and ice buildup.

Furnaces with blocked intakes and exhausts run the risk of having carbon monoxide backup into the home, de Groot says.

Carbon monoxide is often referred to as a 'silent killer' because it has no odour, colour, or taste.

"It's produced from fossil fuel burning appliances such as furnaces and wood fireplaces. Because you can't smell it or taste it, you don't know it's there."

"Symptoms mimic that of the flu. So you have headaches, tiredness, body aches. You'll find that if you leave the home those symptoms may clear up, and you come back and they return again, well that's a sign there's something wrong."

If gone unnoticed the results can be fatal.

Life-saving tips

Besides making sure vents are clear, de Groot recommends having your appliances serviced annually by a qualified service person. He says they can certify the appliances and make sure they are running efficiently and safely.

For wood-burning fireplaces have the chimney cleaned and ensure the flues aren't plugged up. De Groot says that if you notice you're not getting a good flame, there might be a backdraft happening in your chimney.

"The best way to be preventative is (to) have a carbon monoxide detector and have a good working smoke alarm in your home," de Groot said.