A high concentration of carbon monoxide forced a Pratt couple from their home Wednesday.
A Pratt couple escaped injury and possibly death following a carbon monoxide incident Wednesday morning in Pratt.
Firefighters were called to 523 South Ninnescah around 11 a.m. after employees of Adams Electric detected high amounts of carbon monoxide in the house, said Pratt Fire Chief David Kramer.
Someone at the Danny Willard residence first called Adams Electric to check on the heating system because it wasn’t working right. When the employees arrived and entered the house, their carbon monoxide detectors immediately went off. They were reading close to 600 parts per million. Those detectors will start sounding when levels reach 35 parts per million so the amount of carbon monoxide in the house was very high, Kramer said.
“If you went to sleep with that amount, you wouldn’t wake up. Yeah, that’s pretty bad,” Kramer said.
An elderly couple was removed from the house and Pratt County EMS checked them out while Pratt firefighters checked out the house and set up fans to clear the concentration of carbon monoxide.
Kansas Gas Service was called to the scene and after an inspection, determined that significant repairs needed to be done to make the house livable, Kramer said.
The gas was shut off to the house and will not be turned on until repairs have been made. Exactly what needs to be done is being determined. The Willards are working with the Hope Center because cost of repairs is an issue. The couple has found a another place to stay, temporarily, Kramer said.
Kansas Gas Service determined that the old style boiler was not burning like it should. It was not getting complete combustion. This meant the flue was not getting hot enough and instead of pulling the carbon monoxide out of the house, it was just staying inside.
“You could really smell it done there,” Kramer said. “There was a lot of it.”
Luckily for the Willards, they had a window open and it was helping reduce the carbon monoxide concentration.
“It could have been a very deadly mix of carbon monoxide if that window had not been open,” Kramer said. “I would say that amount with exposure of eight to ten hours could be deadly.”
This was the second time in just over a week the Willards had an issue with carbon monoxide. On Christmas Day, Pratt County EMS was called to the house. The female resident was not feeling well and passed out. A Pratt police officer got the couple a carbon monoxide detector but they didn’t like the sound of it going off and quit using it, Kramer said.
Some symptoms of carbon monoxide are dizziness, nausea and it almost feels like flu. Carbon monoxide is a bi-product from burning fossil fuels like natural gas, propane or firewood. It is a silent killer and the Pratt Fire Department has had six calls for carbon monoxide in 2018. None of those calls proved to be significant. The calls turned out to be faulty carbon monoxide detectors or ones that had reached the end of their life cycle, Kramer said.
Most carbon monoxide detectors have life span of five to eight years. Detectors need to be tested to make sure they are working properly. They can be placed anywhere but need to be where inhabitants spend the most time and close to sleeping areas. If there is a single heating source, detectors don’t need to be on every floor because carbon monoxide moves with air flow.
City fire will be glad to check a residence. They do have a few carbon monoxide detectors and will install them at no cost. Carbon monoxide gets in the blood stream and displaces blood cells. If exposure is short term and low amounts, it's not a concern. But if it's day after day, it has a cumulative effect on the system. Anyone with a gas cooking stove or a fire place is going to have carbon monoxide in the house. But those amounts are so small, they easily dissipate and it’s not an issue as long as the concentration is less than 35 parts per million, Kramer said.
Gas stoves, gas furnaces, fire places all need to be properly maintained to prevent a carbon monoxide buildup. Gas furnaces should be checked before the start of the heating season. A gas flame should be steady and blue. If the flame wavers or has a yellow color, the system needs to be checked.
Christmas wrapping paper should not be burned indoors as the paper tends to burn super hot and burn fast. It can cause the chimney to get too hot and the creosote can catch fire.