Undetected carbon monoxide leak nearly kills family of 7

Local News

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — A Summit County family is lucky to be alive, fire officials say, after they flipped on a faulty furnace that poured toxic fumes into their home.

According to Summit Fire & EMS spokesman Steve Lipsher, a Summit County Sheriff’s deputy pulled over a speeding vehicle around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday. 

“Turns out there was an adult driving an unconscious kid to the hospital, so Dillon police escorted them to the hospital and said there may be others,” Lipsher said. 

A team from Summit Fire responded to the Dillon Valley home, where they found another unresponsive child and five adults experiencing headaches, nausea, disorientation and confusion. Seven people ended up in the hospital.

The family was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty furnace. 

“When our firefighters went in with their gas detectors, the house already had been partially ventilated by then, and their meters still were reading a toxic level,” Lipsher said. 

According to Lipsher, the home did not have any carbon monoxide detectors. 

“You don’t know if you’re getting dosed with carbon monoxide, and unfortunately in Colorado, we have a pretty tragic history of carbon monoxide poisoning,” he said.

“They often happen at night when you’re asleep and not paying attention to how your body is responding,” Lipsher said. 

Summit Fire is now hoping the close call on Tuesday serves as a lesson for other Colorado families. 

“It’s just by sheer good fortune that we didn’t have a catastrophe on our hands,” Lipsher said. 

Carbon monoxide detectors can help prevent poisonings and death. 

“You can’t smell or taste carbon monoxide, but if it’s alerting or it’s going off in siren mode, it’s telling you get out of the residence. Call 911,” Lipsher said. 

How to protect yourself and your family from carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is known as the “silent killer,” because a leak is not detectable by human senses. Hundreds of people die each year in the U.S. from carbon monoxide poisoning. Officials say roughly 50,000 people will end up in an ER because of it.

The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are dizziness, headache, upset stomach, weakness, vomiting, confusion and chest pain.

The deadly gas can be produced by running cars, furnaces, kerosene heaters, gas stoves and even burning wood.

Every home should have carbon monoxide detectors strategically placed throughout the home. Fire officials recommend placing carbon monoxide detectors on each level of the residence, preferably near utility rooms housing appliances such as furnaces or clothes dryers.

The alarms can cost as little as $15 and are commonly found in hardware stores, big box stores and grocery stores. If you can not afford one, many local fire departments have programs to help families cover the cost of a carbon monoxide detector. 

Summit Fire & EMS provides free carbon-monoxide and smoke detectors to residents who cannot afford one. Call (970) 262-5100 for more information.

Summit Fire also recommends having your furnace inspected by licensed professionals each year before you turn it on for the season. Regular professional safety checks on your appliances, especially furnaces and gas stoves, are recommended.

Air filters should be changed before seasonal use and on a regular basis during long-term use.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information about carbon monoxide safety guidelines.

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