Nine years ago, Anchorage experienced the worst carbon monoxide tragedy anyone can remember.
In December 2003, 5 members of a single family were killed when they were overcome by deadly gas in their home.
David Arts, age 42, his 33-year-old wife Rita, and their 3 children Taylor, Annemarie and Wilem Tryn -- ages 11, 8 and 3 all lost their lives in a single incident on a single weekend.
Firefighters attribute the deaths to 2 main reasons: the family did not have a working carbon monoxide alarm in their home, and they made a common mistake -- blocking a circular air-intake vent in their furnace room -- apparently out of concern that the hole was letting cold air into their house.
Captain Paul Badalich of the Anchorage Fire Department says those screened vents should never be closed without the advice of a certified furnace professional. Bedalich says that without proper ventilation, a furnace will burn incompletely -- emitting deadly carbon monoxide gas into the air.
Badalich also advises everyone to have working carbon monoxide detectors and working smoke alarms on every floor of their home.
In Alaska, such suggestions became law in the wake of the deaths of the entire Arts family.
Fire and carbon monoxide deaths in homes that have working carbon monoxide and smoke alarms are extremely rare. Simple, inexpensive alarms can be real lifesavers, police say.
Badalich says it's also essential to change the batteries in those alarms twice a year. The Fire Department recommends changing batteries in the spring and in the fall when clocks are also adjusted.
In addition, an annual check of your furnace by a certified technician is also a good idea in addition to an annual check of your fireplace by a licensed, bonded and insured chimney sweep.
As winter begins, fire and carbon monoxide deaths often increase as a result of improperly working furnaces. Alarms can provide a later of safety.
And in Alaska, they are in fact the law.
Contact Dan Fiorucci