CO monitors avert potential New Year’s Eve tragedy in Snowmass |

CO monitors avert potential New Year’s Eve tragedy in Snowmass

Madeleine Osberger
Snowmass Village correspondenty
Aspen, CO Colorado

SNOWMASS VILLAGE ” Carbon monoxide monitors and quick-thinking staffers helped avert a potential tragedy New Year’s Eve at the Snowmass Club’s Sanctuary building.

At about 7:18 p.m. on Dec. 31, the Snowmass/Wildcat Fire Protection District received a call from a massage therapist about potentially high levels of carbon monoxide in unit 144 of the Sanctuary, according to Fire Marshal John Mele. A reading of 377 parts per million was detected in that unit.

According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), any reading over 10 parts per million is potentially harmful. Carbon monoxide attaches to red blood cells and starts to deprive the body of oxygen; children are especially susceptible to its effects.

Firefighters responded to the scene, searched other rooms and found some units with potentially high levels; subsequently they evacuated the building and directed about 45 people to the club’s athletic facility.

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While a search for the root of the problem wasn’t immediately discovered ” the main gas-fired devices in the building are fireplaces and stoves ” during interviews with guests, it was determined that staffers had been working on an interior boiler that afternoon. That prompted the rescue crews to contact the utility, Source gas, which sent technicians to check out the supplemental boiler.

“They found that the boiler was burning incompletely,” Mele said, likening it to car exhaust that hasn’t burned all of its gas.

Fumes entered unit 144 through a fresh air intake on a lower level bathroom and spread to subsequent units through the system.

Before the source of the problem was unearthed, firefighters tried just throwing open doors and windows to see if the levels would drop; Mele said at one point a relocation of the guests was contemplated.

“We were almost at the point of closing the building down,” he said, adding that many guests “were concerned with the (CO) levels they had.”

But after Source gas shut down the backup boiler and again aired the units out, levels dropped immediately.

“Each unit’s Nighthawk CO monitor device was again checked with 0 ppm readings on all devices,” according to the official report. “When we shut the boiler off, we eliminated the carbon monoxide,” Mele added.

After all 20 or so affected rooms were checked and rechecked, just before the start of the new year, at about 11:15 p.m., guests, who had been treated with oxygen and monitored continuously for improvement, were cleared to go “home.”

The club’s management decided to place CO detectors in the building after the Thanksgiving weekend tragedy at a private residence near Aspen, Mele said. That’s when four members of the Lofgren family of Denver, including two young children, were found dead in a home east of the Aspen city limits. The family was staying in the rental home for the weekend, having purchased the lodging through a silent auction.

Since that time, Colorado lawmakers have introduced a bill that requires new homes and homes for sale to have a carbon monoxide detector. Aspen and Pitkin County are initiating their own, stricter rules on detector placement. At present, Snowmass Village does not have that requirement in its code.

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