A Willow Grove woman wants to spread awareness about the importance of having multiple carbon monoxide detectors in homes that use wood heat, after her family had a scare this week.
Lindsay Cail and her family have been using a wood stove for five years without an issue. They live in a small community around 25 kilometres east of Saint John.
On Monday night, they let the fire go out around 9:00 p.m., and on Tuesday morning the carbon monoxide detector they keep near the stove in the basement started to go off.
Cail said they called 911, left the house and waited for the fire department to arrive. When they did, firefighters tested the air and found the carbon monoxide levels in the basement were zero, but upstairs in her bedroom the levels were higher.
"It was around 10 parts per million less than what regularly requires them to wear breathing apparatuses to enter the rooms," Cail told Shift.
That's not what the family was expecting to hear, Cail says.
"We didn't really think much of it until they came out and told us what the levels were, and then it kind of hits you that it definitely, definitely could have been much worse," she says.
Cail says the level of carbon monoxide was 25 parts per million. WorkSafeNB strongly recommends carbon monoxide levels be kept below 25 parts per million, according to a 2015 fact sheet. Levels above that can cause reduced cardiovascular capacity — meaning the ability for the body to turn oxygen into energy — it says.
Detectors on every floor: fire prevention officer
Carbon monoxide is poisonous but has no odour, colour or taste, making it impossible to sense, says Arthur Willins, a fire prevention officer with the Kennebecasis Valley Fire Department.
"So having the monitors is incredibly important in your home," Willins says. He says people should have them if they heat their homes with a combustion fuel, such oil, diesel, wood, propane and natural gas.
Cail says her family may have been misinformed, thinking one detector in the basement near the stove would do the trick.
"Thankfully it did. But it also could have been much worse because it didn't detect it, obviously, right away where the highest levels were," she says.
Willins says it's best practice to have detectors in every level of a home. He says the concentration of the gas can change from floor to floor, which is what happened in Cail's case.
After the experience, she checked in with loved ones who use wood stoves to ensure they've got detectors in all levels of the home — and her family went out to purchase more.
She hopes that by sharing the story, her family can help people understand how important it is to have adequate carbon monoxide detectors.
"On all levels of your house, not just the basement."
Cail says exactly what caused the carbon monoxide to spread throughout their home is unknown.
Exact cause of exposure unknown
Cail says the fire department told her it could have been a number of things, like moisture in the wood or the damper being closed a little too much.
Willins says it's important to stay on top of a wood stove's maintenance to ensure something similar doesn't happen. Having the chimney swept is one example, he says.
"Just general maintenance on your home or your wood stove would be a great idea," he says.
Cail says the experience won't stop them from using their stove, they'll just be a little more careful.