North Branch Township, MI – A North Branch Township family’s carbon monoxide
detector alerted them to poisonous gas slowing seeping inside their home Sunday night.
Homeowners Brian and Alberta Guralczyk and their children Alex Coulter, 18, and Adam Guralczyk, 10, were inside their Cedar Creek home relaxing when the detector sounded about 9:08 p.m.
“We didn’t know what the noise was at first because we’d never heard it before,” said Alberta. “We’ve had the detector for several months, but it never went off .”
The family discovered it was its carbon monoxide alarm, and called 9-1-1.
“They told us to wait outside, so that’s what we did,” Coulter said.
About six North Branch Township firefighters arrived and checked the home with a special instrument.
“We walked in and got traces,” said Fire Chief Ken Jentzen. “The levels got higher. It turned out to be a leak near the furnace and hot water heater. It was a small leak, but any amount of CO in a house will make you sick after time. Your body collects it.”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, one can’t see or smell carbon monoxide, but at high levels it can kill a person in minutes. Carbon monoxide is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. If appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result.
“It’s produced by anything that uses fossil fuels,” Jentzen said. “Any appliance that has an open flame.”
Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances.
“I have to commend the North Branch Fire Department; they were here so quickly,” said Alberta, who is a kindergarten teacher at Kirk Elementary School in Millington. “Each year you teach and preach safety. We have a firefighter come out and talk to the kids every year about safety. You just don’t think it will happen to you.”
Coulter, who was already suffering from the flu, said it kind of bothered him that he spent the night before in the basement near the leak. Those who are poisoned by the gas develop similar symptoms to the flu or food poisoning; victims may not think that CO poisoning is the cause.
At moderate levels, victims have severe headaches, become dizzy, mentally confused, nauseated, or faint. A person can die if these levels persist for a long time. Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild
headaches, and may have longer term effects on health.
Brian fixed the leak; the family aired out their rooms and spent Sunday night in their home.