Heber City, UT – When a firefighter and a police officer knocked on the door one Saturday morning, Travis and JoNeil Nye insisted that everything was OK.
It was true JoNeil Nye had a headache, but she figured it was simply a cold coming on.
Alerted by a commercial dispatch operator, Wasatch County Assistant Fire Chief Robert Morris politely insisted that he be allowed inside and the family agreed.
Once inside, Morris found fatal levels of carbon monoxide in the air especially in the bedroom where the couple’s 3-year-old daughter, Saige,
“It’s scary to think about,” JoNeil Nye said Friday at a press gathering to help alert people to the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. “I never paid that much attention to it. It’s something that you hear about happening to other people, but you never think it’s going to happen to you.”
The family was lucky everyone fell asleep on couches in the downstairs family room while watching movies the night before.
Oddly, this is where the fireplace is located. But carbon monoxide can migrate, and the levels were particularly dangerous in the upstairs bedrooms they ordinarily would have used.
The Nyes, along with members of the Wasatch County Fire Department and ADT, a firm that provides carbon monoxide monitoring, invited reporters into their home to underscore the importance of watching out for a “silent killer” that gives off no smell and cannot be seen.
JoNeil Nye said she noticed that their carbon monoxide detector kept going off this season when the fire in the fireplace would die down, but she shrugged it off. “I thought it was a malfunction of the equipment.”
However, on Nov. 28, an ADT dispatcher called Nye, who again thought the device was simply not working right. But the dispatcher decided to call the Wasatch County Fire Department anyway, which probably saved the lives of all three family members.
Wasatch County Fire Chief Ernie Giles stopped by a few days later to re-check everything and make sure the Nyes were safe.
Jerry Davis, the fire marshall for Wasatch County, said a number of things can produce overly high levels of carbon monoxide: wood burning stoves, generators, space heaters and other things people bring inside to warm up, including barbecue grills.
In addition, homes built since the 1980s must have a fresh air line, but some people plug it up with insulation.
Inept do-it-yourselfers also can make dangerous mistakes when it comes to anything that produces carbon monoxide.
A 16-year-old Wasatch County boy died earlier this year while visiting grandparents at a cabin, according to Janet Carson, the public information officer for the fire department. The teen took a shower, and an improperly installed water heater filled the bathroom with toxic levels of carbon monoxide.
Consumers can hire a company to monitor the carbon monoxide levels in the home. It also is possible to simply purchase a device that will sound an alarm much like a smoke detector.
As for the Nyes, they’ve closed the flue in the fireplace and don’t plan to use it. They also will hire a contractor to install a fresh air line with their furnace just as a precaution.
“Don’t take it lightly,” JoNeil Nye said. “Pay attention and play it safe during the holidays.”