WI- By Carla McCann, Gazette Staff

Brian Heisz isn’t sure why he felt a need to return to his apartment at Meadow Ridge after dropping his daughter, Brianna, off at her mother’s house.

It was about 8 p.m. on a recent Thursday, and Heisz had planned on going grocery shopping.

Although Heisz had forgotten his checkbook at home, he didn’t need it. He had a debit card in his wallet.For an unknown reason, however, he drove back home.”Something made me come home,” Heisz said.

His neighbors are thankful he did. Heisz likely saved their lives and that of a 13-year-old boy who was spending the night at his grandparents’ home.

While walking up to his apartment, Heisz heard what he believed was a fire alarm going off in the complex. He opened his apartment door and listened. The sound wasn’t coming from his home.

Heisz, 45, then set out to find from where it was coming.

Walking around the south side of the building, around Apt. 1, Heisz could still hear the buzzing noise of the alarm. He walked farther and heard nothing but the usual night sounds of the east side neighborhood.

While Heisz was tracking down the source of the alarm, his downstairs neighbors, Clifford and Lou Carroll, were watching television in their apartment. Their grandson, Brett Carroll, was asleep on the floor in another room.

Backtracking, Heisz knocked on the Carrolls’ door. When the door opened, he could hear the buzzing alarm much louder than it had sounded outside, Heisz said.

He asked the couple if they had a fire in the apartment.

Lou, 84, and Clifford, 85, heard the alarm. But they didn’t know what it was or from where it was coming. At first, Clifford said he thought the battery in his hearing aid was wearing out and beeping, like they do, he said.

After checking the fire detectors in the couple’s apartment and finding them silent, Heisz located another alarm plugged into an outlet in the hall.

It was a carbon monoxide detector that was reading 200 parts per million. CO detectors are designed to sound an alarm when concentrations are greater than 100 ppm, according to information posted on Environmental Research’s Web site.The maximum for acute exposure is 200 ppm.

“I thought the detector was malfunctioning,” Heisz said.

All of the appliances in the apartment complex are electric, Heisz said, “and we just had the furnace checked.”Heisz unplugged the detector for just a few seconds to make sure it was the source of the alarm.

When he plugged it back in, the reading had jumped to 240. It was time to evacuate the apartment, Heisz said.”We have to get out of here,” he told the Carrolls.

He opened a window in the room where Brett was sleeping and woke up the boy, Heisz said.Brett was groggy,” Heisz said.

After leaving the apartment, Heisz called the Milton Fire Department’s non-emergency number. But it was after hours, and no one was there to answer the call.

He then called 911. Within seconds, Heisz heard sirens coming his way from across town, he said.

He then ran around the building, knocking on neighbors’ doors to alert them of the emergency, he said.

Helen Marek, 85, lives behind the Carrolls in Apt. 12. She is very grateful to Heisz, she said.

Marek didn’t have a CO detector then. She does now.

“I check it a couple times a day,” she said.

If it wasn’t for the detector in the Carrolls’ apartment, the couple and their grandson could have died from carbon monoxide poisoning that evening.

“I’m so thankful that Brian knew what it was and where to go,” Lou said. “I don’t think it has sunk in yet as to how lucky we were.”

The Carrolls were the only ones in the building with a CO detector, and Clifford had doubted its worth.

“I had it about 10 years and it never went off,” Clifford said. “I never thought it was any good. I plugged it in when we moved here because I had it.”

Firefighters and Alliant Energy workers discovered the cause of the problem-a bird’s nest built in a PVC exhaust pipe outside the Carrolls’ apartment. The exhaust had blown the nest against the opening, blocking air from escaping the pipe.

“You may only need a carbon monoxide detector once in your life,” Heisz said. “But it will only take once to end a life. I know what I’m getting everyone for Christmas this year.”