No injuries after food canning project sets off CO alarm

·3 min read

Residents of a rural home in Powassan found their carbon monoxide alarm blaring when they returned home late Tuesday after spending the morning canning food with the use of their gas-powered stove.

Ben Mousseau, a volunteer firefighter and also the Protective Services Officer for Powassan, said after finishing up with the canning project, the homeowners left to run errands in the afternoon.

Mousseau says the gas-powered stove was in use all morning and, with no ventilation in the home, the carbon monoxide levels continued to rise.

However the CO alarm didn't go off until the owners left the house.

When they returned home and heard the alarm, they called the Powassan Fire Department.

Mousseau said no one was hurt.

Although the homeowners turned off the stove before leaving the house, the CO levels continued to build up from the stove being on all morning.

When firefighters arrived on the scene, they detected CO levels that exceed 30 parts per million in all three levels of the home.

Exposure to CO concentrations as low as 35 parts per million are enough to trigger cardiac and respiratory issues.

Mousseau says the incident serves as a reminder for people to crack open a window when engaged in this kind of activity and a gas-powered device is being used for an extended period.

People always need to make sure their CO detectors are in good working order, he said. “The stove was off in this case. But what if you have a small leak in your furnace or water heater and the (CO) concentration keeps building up? Then, when you go to sleep at night, you don't notice the CO because it's colourless and odourless. This can become a tragic situation.”

Mousseau says CO detectors are required outside sleeping areas “but the best practice is to have them on every floor of your home.”

In the Tuesday evening incident, firefighters immediately detected the CO and turned off the gas supply to all the gas-powered appliances.

They then ventilated the home until the CO levels were back to zero.

Afterwards, an HVAC technician gave the all-clear for the two occupants to re-enter their home.

It wasn't until Wednesday that investigators determined the CO came from the prolonged use of the stove, and with no windows open, the concentrations continued to rise.

Powassan Fire Chief Bill Cox says it takes very little for an individual to succumb to carbon monoxide.

Cox says when a person inhales CO, the gas begins replacing oxygen in the blood and that prevents oxygen from getting to the heart, brain and other vital organs.

COX says in as little as three breaths you can be unconscious and dead within 15 minutes.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget

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