Weston, CT- A recent alarm call on Hedgerow Common underscores the importance of installing carbon monoxide detectors in the home, according to Weston Fire Chief John Pokorny.
On Monday, June 22, shortly before 7:30 p.m., the Weston Volunteer Fire Department responded to an automatic alarm at a residence on Hedgerow Common.
When firefighters arrived, they found carbon monoxide detectors in the home had gone off, indicating higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless and odorless but highly toxic gas.
Residents were cleared from the house as firefighters used fans to air the home until CO levels returned to normal. The detectors did their job, said Chief Pokorny.
The rise in CO levels came from gas-powered suction vacuums that a clean-up company was using to remove water from the basement in the home. The water had accumulated after several days of steady rain, and the homeowner had called a professional company to pump the basement, Chief Pokorny said.
The clean-up truck was parked approximately 15 feet from the garage and was using a gas-powered vacuum to collect water. Exhaust fumes from the vacuum blew toward the garage and worked their way into the residence, elevating the carbon monoxide levels. Sometimes a simple thing such as the direction of the wind, can affect how much CO enters a home, Chief Pokorny said.
The CO from the exhaust triggered an automatic alarm and alerted the fire department.
Upon review, Chief Pokorny said while the CO levels in the home were high, the alarms went off quickly, so the levels did not become deadly. The first and second floors in the home had readings above what is considered to be a safe amount, but they werent lethal, he said.
Firefighters stayed at the home until 8:53 p.m., setting up fans and airing it out so the residents could return.
Chief Pokorny said this incident was similar to what happens in the winter when generators are set up too close to homes. An engine is an engine and it doesnt matter where the CO is coming from, he said.
Excessive levels of CO can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, which can cause headaches, nausea and fatigue in mild cases, and brain damage or death in severe cases.
No one in the Hedgerow Common incident reported any injuries or needed any medical attention, Chief Pokorny said.
The CO incident came just four days after a public hearing at town hall to consider adoption of a townwide ordinance to require carbon monoxide detectors in homes, rental units, childcare facilities, commercial buildings, and municipal buildings.
If the ordinance is passed, there will be civil penalties and fines imposed on those violating the ordinance.
To help provide Weston residents with CO detectors, the fire department has formed a committee that is working with manufacturers to purchase a large quantity of detectors at a reduced price, and distribute them to Weston homeowners who need them.
Weston volunteer firefighter Lou Dempsey estimated that about one-third of the homes in Weston do not have CO detectors.
Our goal is to come up with a plan that will outfit homes with detectors, and that will work for any town and city in the country, Mr. Dempsey said.
Last year, Mr. Dempseys wife, Maria, lost her sister Caroline Lofgren, Carolines husband Parker, and their children Owen, 10, and Sophie, 8, to carbon monoxide poisoning.
The Lofgrens had won a weekend stay at a luxury home in Aspen, Colo., as part of a church fund-raiser. Carbon monoxide filled the home from a faulty heating system, and killed the family in their sleep.
One of the saddest parts of the Lofgren tragedy was that their deaths were preventable, Mr. Dempsey said.
By installing CO detectors in every Weston home, he said he hopes to prevent further tragedies.
The Board of Selectmen is expected to adopt the CO detector ordinance at an upcoming meeting.