Carbon Monoxide Incident Prompts Evacuation

Tour Commander, 509.625.7100

Friday, December 6, 2019 at 8:01 a.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 6:09 PM, the Spokane Fire Department responded to a local restaurant where a customer was reportedly experiencing a medical emergency. The Fire Communication Specialists were able to identify symptoms that included light headedness, headache and a patient that was in and out of consciousness per the 911 caller's description. Pre-arrival instructions were given while SFD Paramedics were en-route, and the first company arrived within 4-minutes.

The four-person team entered the restaurant, and per their protocol, they activated their Carbon Monoxide (CO) detector that is attached to their medical gear. Due to CO being clear, invisible, and undetectable by smell; it is impossible to detect its presence without instrumentation. The SFD assigns small CO Detectors to every fire company in order to provide an early warning in situations where CO may present a danger to the responders or the community. This is especially important during colder temperatures when open flames can create CO accumulation if devices are improperly vented or not working correctly.

Within moments of making contact with the patient inside the restaurant, the CO detector began to alarm. The building was immediately evacuated and the patient moved to a safe location for treatment by Paramedics. The company retrieved a hazardous materials monitor from their apparatus and returned to monitor the conditions inside the restaurant, confirming high levels of CO present throughout the building.

Firefighters were able to locate a faulty furnace unit that was the cause of the CO production. The specific unit was isolated, tagged unsafe, and removed from service. The building was sufficiently ventilated and made safe for occupancy before the firefighters left the scene.

This incident serves as a not-so-subtle reminder that CO is dangerous--it displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain and other vital organs of oxygen. Large amounts of CO can overcome humans in minutes without warning — causing unconsciousness and death.

The SFD recommends that CO detectors be installed on each floor of a residence and in, or just outside, each sleeping area. If a CO detector alarms, community members should immediately remove themselves from the home or business involved and call 911.