Lowell, MA – The Boston Channel – More than 120 Lowell senior citizens were waking up safe Wednesday morning thanks to one person.

They were forced out of their Lowell apartment complex Tuesday because of unsafe levels of carbon monoxide in the building, and if it weren’t for a fellow resident, the situation could have turned deadly.

NewsCenter 5’s Shiba Russell reported that one emergency worker said many residents could have died in their sleep. But the gas was detected early enough and the man who got the warning wasted no time calling for help.

The residents were forced out of the J.C. Place senior apartment complex, a seven-story building at 22 Bowers St., in Lowell. Some had no time to even throw on their shoes.

“With the readings up over 300, they could have gotten into trouble real quick,” Lowell EMT Mark Boldrighini said.

Emergency crews blamed the leak on a faulty water heater in the building basement. The deadly gas traveled all the way up to the seventh floor before it set off a carbon monoxide detector located in one man’s apartment.

“I was woozy. I really was,” one resident said.

“We’re very fortunate that his detector went off and that he called us up right away,” Lowell Fire Chief William Desrosiers said.

Evacuated residents were taken to a nearby senior center where they got medical care and were given a hot meal. On their way back home, they heard about how a neighbor had saved them all.

“If this had happened later in the evening, there may have been a number of people who didn’t wake up in the morning. But thanks to his detector, the job got done,” Bodrighini said.

The state passed a carbon monoxide law late last fall that requires detectors in all Massachusetts residences and buildings but the law is being phased in, which means the seniors building in Lowell is exempt.

New and renovated homes are now required to have carbon monoxide detectors. Existing single and two family homes will be required to have the devices in place by March 31. All hotels, apartment buildings and multi-family homes will have to have hardwired detectors by Jan. 1, 2007.