Lexington, KY- LEX18 – Problems with a gas water heater caused a build-up of carbon monoxide in a south Lexington home Sunday, and firefighters say the situation could have had a deadly ending.

Firefighters responded to the home on Waterside Court after a family of four called for help Sunday morning. Firefighters had to use their air tanks to get inside the house, where they say the CO level was hundreds of times higher than normal levels. Investigators say the problem was caused by birds that had built a nest in the ventilation system of the home’s gas water heater.

Firefighters say ventilation problems causing carbon monoxide build-up happen a lot during winter. Battalion Chief Steven Sea says it’s a good idea to have a professional check out appliances like your heating system or your water heater to make sure they are properly vented. He also recommends installing a carbon monoxide detector in your home to help warn you of any problems.

Health officials say the initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to the flu – headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. If you have any of these symptoms, and believe you’ve been exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide, you re advised to get some fresh air. If you have more severe symptoms, go to the emergency room.