Wonder Valley, CA – By Jutta Biggerstaff, Hi-Desert star – Five members of a Wonder Valley family suffered carbon monoxide poisoning early Monday morning and were transported to area hospitals, according to Tracey Martinez, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department.

Michelle Pierson called 9-1-1 at 5:18 a.m. when her two small daughters, ages 1 and 3, exhibited signs of illness and erratic behavior. Upon hearing the symptoms, the dispatcher immediately told the woman to evacuate the house.

Pierson then found her older daughters, ages 7 and 8, unresponsive in another bedroom. She woke her husband, Jack, who was also having symptoms of poisoning, and together they got the children out of the house and opened all the windows and doors, Martinez reported.

When emergency medical personnel arrived, they found the older two girls outside under blankets and still unconscious. After receiving oxygen, the girls revived and were coherent and responsive when a Mercy Air helicopter arrived to take them to Loma Linda University Medical Center. The girls were treated and released.

The father and the two younger girls were taken by ambulance to Hi-Desert Medical Center for treatment. They also were later released.

The fire department determined the carbon monoxide was released through a half-closed flue on the fireplace, which was being used throughout the night to heat the house.

“The fire department receives several carbon monoxide poisoning calls a year, usually caused by fireplaces,” Martinez said.

People are often unaware of the dangers of the deadly gas because it’s odorless, tasteless and colorless, she said. They may believe themselves to be suffering from flu because low levels of the gas causes headache, nausea, dizziness and fatigue.

Higher levels of carbon monoxide can result in vomiting, disorientation, seizures, unconsciousness and death.

“It’s the hidden poison,” Martinez said. “That’s why everyone should have a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector.”

And, as with the home’s smoke detector, its batteries should be checked each fall and winter.

“Carbon monoxide detectors do not replace the need for a smoke detector,” Martinez stressed.