Carbondale gas leak triggers evacuation |

Carbondale gas leak triggers evacuation

CARBONDALE ” Ten residents of a duplex were hospitalized with various degrees of carbon monoxide poisoning Monday morning after being evacuated from their homes because of a carbon monoxide leak from a faulty furnace, Carbondale fire officials said.

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 in Glenwood Springs.

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 carbon monoxide.

The residents of the second unit also were transported to Valley View, 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 Valley View spokeswoman Alice Sundeen.

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

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.”

Carbon monoxide detectors can be purchased from SourceGas or any area hardware store. Multistory 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 ” headache, nausea and general weakness. If multiple occupants of a home or office are experiencing the same symptoms, it’s a good indication there may be a carbon monoxide 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.”

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