Fresno, CA – When Cruz Vasquez Sr. lit the fireplace, he didn’t expect carbon monoxide poisoning to hit his family.
By Louis Galvan, The Fresno Bee
Two children who collapsed and four other family members who also became ill were treated Thursday morning for carbon monoxide poisoning apparently caused by a fire in the fireplace.
Martha Vasquez, 32, said she called 911 after two of her children collapsed in the living room of their Madera County home and she and two other children started feeling sick.
Her husband, Cruz Vasquez Sr., 33, had left to run an errand when the rest of the family became ill. He said Thursday that he did not have any symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, but his health was still being monitored at University Medical Center in Fresno.
The parents and all four of their children, Gabriella Sierra, 14, Cruz Jr., 9, Alex, 6, and Bianca, 5, were taking turns Thursday morning in a hyperbaric chamber a sealed container designed to provide high levels of oxygen to patients to rid them of carbon monoxide molecules in their bodies.
Martha Vasquez said the two boys complained of headaches and ringing in their ears before they collapsed. But, she said, the boys almost immediately started feeling better when emergency medical personnel arrived and helped them outdoors to get fresh air.
Martha Vasquez said the entire family was home when her husband lit the fireplace about 8 p.m. Wednesday.
She said the family moved into the house in April and Wednesday was the second time they had used the fireplace the first time being about a week ago.
She said her husband left home a few minutes later on an errand and that she and Bianca went into the bathroom to shower.
“We were still in the bathroom when the boys started knocking on the door saying that their heads hurt,” she said.
Vasquez said by the time she and Bianca got dressed and stepped out of the bathroom, the boys complained of feeling worse and soon she, Bianca and Gabriella also started getting sick.
It was not until the boys passed out that she got scared and called 911 for help, she said.
It was about 9 p.m. when an ambulance crew and firefighters were dispatched to the house in the 17000 block of Crescent Drive, near Avenue 17.
“That’s what my husband came home to when he returned,” she said.
In the meantime, Madera County Fire Department Battalion Chief Keith Johnson said Thursday that firefighters who checked the Vasquez home with a carbon monoxide detection device were not able to find any traces of the gas.
The test, however, was conducted hours after the family had left the house, which was left open. Carbon monoxide forms when there is fire and inadequate ventilation, such as a blocked flue.
Adolph Vincent, a service supervisor at Pacific Gas & Electric Co., said PG&E workers carry an apparatus to test for the colorless and odorless gas and that it is not uncommon to get calls from other agencies about possible carbon monoxide poisonings.
“Just this week, I know we’ve responded to several carbon monoxide poisonings,” Vincent said.