Fire officials are highlighting the importance of having a working carbon monoxide detector after an East Vancouver home had to be evacuated, and several residents treated in hospital, after being exposed to high levels of the gas.
Assistant Fire Chief David Boone said that firefighters and paramedics were first called to the home in the 6200-block of Tyne Street Tuesday night to reports of an elderly man suffering from chest pains.
“During the course of assessing and treating the patient, it became apparent that there was carbon monoxide in the residence,” Boone told reporters.
It was carbon monoxide (CO) detectors worn by paramedics also responding to the call that first alerted crews that there was CO in the home, he said.
The crews evacuated all nine residents, as well as themselves, and firefighters brought in a carbon monoxide detector that measured a reading of 360 parts per million (ppm).
“It’s certainly a concerning amount and in an enclosed structure that CO may build throughout the evening,” Boone said. “This occurred at 11:30 at night so if those people had been sleeping all evening long that value may have increased.”
He added that the occupational threshold for CO exposure is 25 ppm for an eight hour exposure and short-term exposure limit of 100 ppm. A concentration of 70 ppm is enough to have negative effects in healthy adults.
The Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services hazmat team and Fortis crews were called in. All the residents of the home were treated at the scene and the 70-year-old man, who been complaining of chest pains, and two children were taken to hospital for further treatment.
“Fortis on scene determined that the source of the cause of the CO was from an appliance that wasn’t functioning properly,” Boone said, later adding, “It’s undetermined at this time as to which appliance, it’s suspected it had something to do with the heating system in the house… my understanding [is] it might have something to do with either the furnace or heat exchanger.”
The gas was shut off in order to allow the appliances to be checked and serviced, and the home was ventilated to remove the carbon monoxide. As of Wednesday afternoon the home had been cleared for the family to return, however, Boone said, they were staying with family and friends because the gas had yet to be turned back on.
“At this time we’d like to remind all residents in the city of Vancouver that this kind of thing happens all too often,” Boone said. “There’s, I believe it’s, around 40 of these types of incidents we’re called to every year annually and we want to remind everyone the importance of having a maintained smoke detector and CO alarm in the residence.”
Last month the department launched a new campaign, Wake Up Vancouver, aimed at raising awareness, and reducing related deaths, about the importance of having a working smoke detector. The department produced a series of videos that are available on its YouTube channel.
Anyone who is alerted to the possible presence of carbon monoxide should immediately leave the premises and call 911. Signs of carbon monoxide exposure include lethargy, nausea, confusion, headache and loss of consciousness, and eventually death.