Mashpee, MA – Cape Cod Times, By SEAN GONSALVES -After a Mashpee family was hospitalized Monday with carbon monoxide poisoning, fire officials are sounding alarms about the risks of snow-packed gas vents at homes and businesses across Cape Cod.
Fire Chief George Baker said his department responded to seven carbon monoxide-related calls the day after Mother Nature dumped more than a foot of snow on the Cape and islands. The Mashpee family has since been released from the hospital.
“In that instance, we were notified by Falmouth Hospital that they were treating a Mashpee family for carbon monoxide poisoning. Our investigation found they had been using a portable gasoline generator in the house,” Baker said.
The department also responded to six other carbon-monoxide calls Monday.
The first call came in at 8 a.m. when employees of the Route 28 boat dealer, Bosun’s, were opening the store for business.
“We got extremely high readings of carbon monoxide,” Baker said. “We surmised that the snow packed around the vent pipes blocked the vents and gas entered the building at dangerous levels.” Baker traced the problem to Bosun’s 13-year-old “high-efficiency natural gas furnace.”
“Instead of using a traditional chimney to vent … these new furnaces use PVC plastic pipe as a vent and they are generally placed near ground level,” he said. That means heavy snow can block the vents and trap dangerous gases inside of businesses and homes, he explained.
Baker, along with the fire marshal’s office, wanted to alert the public of the possible link between snow, gas furnaces and the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.”In all of those residences we found these high-efficiency’ furnaces, he said.
“We’ve had winter storms on Cape Cod for as long as we’ve had fire departments and these high-efficiency furnaces have been around for over 10 years. But this is the first time I can recall so many carbon monoxide-related emergencies associated with these kind of furnaces,” Baker added.
State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan and Cotuit Fire Chief Paul Frazie, joined Baker in warning the public. “Half of all fire department calls for carbon monoxide occur between November and February and heating equipment is the leading cause,” Coan said.
Carbon monoxide poisoning may mimic the symptoms of the flu, but without a fever, Frazier said.