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Carbondale gas leak sends 10 to hospital

CARBONDALE ” Ten residents of a duplex were sent to the hospital with various degrees of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning Monday morning after being evacuated from their home due to a CO gas leak from a faulty furnace, according to Carbondale fire officials.

Deputy fire chief Carl Smith said the Carbondale Fire Department received a report at 7:08 a.m. Monday of several members of the same family who were exhibiting signs of carbon monoxide poisoning in one of the units at 850 Garfield Ave.

“Carbondale Police (Sgt.) Greg Knott had arrived before we got there and recognized the seriousness of the problem, and started evacuating people immediately,” Smith said.



Three Carbondale ambulances responded, along with one ambulance each from Basalt and Glenwood Springs. Five people, including children and adults, were initially transported to Valley View Hospital.

Emergency personnel then checked on the five residents in the neighboring unit, who indicated they felt OK, Smith said. When they checked the unit with a carbon monoxide detector, the reading indicated 100 parts per million of carbon monoxide.



To put that in perspective, Smith said the fire department requires firefighters to use a breathing apparatus whenever there is a reading of 50 parts per million of CO.

The residents of the second unit were also transported to VVH, which instituted its mass casualty response plan.

“Whenever we have this many people we coordinate with the area hospitals to see who can handle that many patients at once,” Smith said. “If Valley View had been full, we would have started transporting up to Aspen.”

The victims were all treated and released later in the day Monday, according to VVH director of community relations Alice Sundeen.

Smith said the American Red Cross was contacted and temporary housing found for the victims while the furnace was being replaced. They were expected to be able to return by Tuesday or today.

Fire department investigator Kevin Greene, along with Carbondale building official Kevin Roberts and Gary Meoney of SourceGas, inspected the duplex and traced the leak to the furnace, which was shared between the two units.

Roberts said the leak probably came from an open door on the furnace unit. It’s possible screws on the door loosened because of vibrations, causing the door to pop open, he said.

“Had the door been on, it never would have happened,” he said.

Smith emphasized the importance of installing a carbon monoxide detector in any home that has a natural gas furnace or uses gas space heaters.

“I don’t want to exaggerate, but we were very close to having a major tragedy,” he said. “It’s just as important as a smoke detector. We were very fortunate in this case that we did not have a much more significant incident.”

CO detectors can be purchased from SourceGas or any area hardware store. Multi-story homes should have detectors on each floor, Smith said.

Anyone who suspects a problem in their home or place of business should be aware of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, including headache, nausea and general weakness. Especially if multiple occupants of a home or office are experiencing the same symptoms, it’s a good indication there may be a CO leak in the building, he said.

“Especially if you notice you feel better at work or at school, you probably have an issue wherever it is you notice the symptoms,” Smith said.

“If anyone is ever concerned, they should just call 911 and we’ll come check it out. We have trained people who know what to look for.”

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, practically odorless and tasteless gas or liquid.

Sources of carbon monoxide

– Leaking chimneys and furnaces

– Back-drafting from furnaces

– Gas water heaters

– Wood stoves

– Fireplaces

In low concentrations the gas can cause fatigue.

At higher concentrations it can cause impaired vision and coordination, headaches, dizziness, confusion and nausea and can be fatal.

Steps to reduce CO in your home

– Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.

– Consider purchasing a vented space heater when replacing an unvented one.

– Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters.

– Install and use an exhaust fan vented to outdoors over gas stoves.

– Open flues when fireplaces are in use.

– Choose properly sized wood stoves that are certified to meet EPA emission standards. Make certain that doors on all wood stoves fit tightly.

– Have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune up central heating system (furnaces, flues, and chimneys) annually. Repair any leaks promptly.

– Do not idle the car inside garage.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency


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