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At approximately 6:24 PM on Tuesday, January 21, the Central Dakota Communications Center received a report of carbon monoxide alarm activation at an apartment building on the 100 block of West Burleigh Avenue.
The Bismarck Fire Department was dispatched to investigate. The first arriving fire crew reported a three story 60-unit apartment building. The fire crew established command and went inside where they made contact with building residents who reported the carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in their units were sounding.
Fire crews entered the building to investigate and found elevated CO levels in the hallways of the building. The highest level of CO was found in the boiler room, which measured over 499 parts per million. At that point building residents were instructed to shelter in place because CO levels were found to be lowest inside the apartment units. Additional fire crews arrived on scene and assisted with shutting down all fuel fired appliances (3 boilers and 2 water heaters), ventilating the building, and monitoring CO levels. Montana Dakota Utilities (MDU) and a mechanical contractor arrived on scene and identified the main boiler as the problem, and secured that part of the system. Fire crews continued to ventilate the building and monitor for CO. When it was determined that the atmosphere was safe, the shelter in place order was lifted and the unaffected heating units were restored.
Four fire department apparatus and 10 fire fighters were dispatched to the scene. MDU was on scene to secure utilities. There were no injuries to any of the occupants. There were no injuries to first responders.
Carbon Monoxide is a silent killer because it is colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. Carbon Monoxide or CO is a product of incomplete combustion. The only way to know we are breathing this oxygen depriving gas is through detection. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself and other loved ones.
1. First install a UL approved CO detector on every level of your home, making sure one is by the bedrooms.
2. Test the detectors monthly and change the batteries every six months.
3. If the CO detector sounds an alarm, check it for proper operation, get everyone out leaving windows and exterior doors closed. (Call 911)
4. Have a licensed professional install or perform yearly maintenance on furnaces and keep all fuel burning appliances working properly. (Stove, dryer, fireplace etc…)
5. Make sure to warm up vehicles outside rather than in the garage.
6. Watch if you or other family members feel sick at home but fine when out of the house.
7. Symptoms of CO poisoning which can mimic the flu include headaches, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, confusion, elevated heart rate leading up to unconsciousness, convulsions, major organ failure and even death.
8. Small children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems are more susceptible to Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
9. Carbon Monoxide Detectors and Smoke Alarms, with battery back-up, are essential and are even more critical when using emergency generators and alternate heat sources. The use of an emergency generator and alternate heat sources, if not used properly, increases your chances of carbon monoxide poisoning.
View more information about Carbon Monoxide Alarms here.