Rio Rico, AZ – A community outreach effort by the Rio Rico Fire District may have saved a local family from disaster.

RRFD spent Saturday, Dec. 12 installing smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in 17 homes on Willow Drive and Hodges Circle. On Tuesday, Dec. 15 a call came in from someone at one of the houses about a gas leak.

It turned out that a faulty water heater was leaking gas into the house where two adults and four children lived.

When district personnel responded, they checked their CO monitoring instrument and found a “quite high” reading, Capt. Mike Burns said.

UniSource turned off the gas, the homeowner bought a new heater, and the gas was connected again.

“I was so gladthat we had the opportunity to put the alarms in this family’s house and potentially save their lives,” Burns said.

The homeowner, who did not want to be identified, said the family was fortunate it happened during the day and she was the only one home at the time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. “If you breathe in a lot of CO it can make you pass out or kill you,” the CDC says. “People who are sleeping or drunk can die from CO poisoning before they have symptoms.”

RRFD has been working with the Sonora Environmental Research Institute (SERI) Community Risk Reduction program to provide smoke and CO detectors for homeowners who don’t already have them.

“It’s extremely important for people to have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in their house,” Burns said. “In the event that you see a gas leak or a fire in the house, it gives them an early warning and allows them to escape.”

The Community Risk Reduction program includes promoting the use of seat belts, car seats and bike helmets, in addition to smoke and CO detectors, RRFD Battalion Chief Adam Amezaga said.

Burns, who was part of the team installing the detectors, said firefighters try to “put themselves out of business” by preventing fires and keeping people from getting injured.

“I really enjoy that part of the job,” Burns said of installing detectors. “It’s an opportunity for the firefighters to meet their community when they’re not in distress.”