At approximately 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 11, crews from Vail Fire and Emergency Services and Eagle County Paramedic Services responded to a duplex on Vail View Drive for a report of a person not feeling well. Upon arrival, emergency personnel found one person who was seriously ill. While treating the initial patient, four other occupants complained of not feeling well. Emergency personnel immediately evacuated all of the occupants from the building; two patients were incapacitated and had to be physically carried out of the building. Two additional fire engines, two additional ambulances and a paramedic supervisor were called to the scene. Following treatment at scene, all five occupants were transported to Vail Valley Medical Center.
Suspecting possible carbon monoxide poisoning, fire personnel then re-entered the building in protective clothing and breathing apparatus to monitor for carbon monoxide (CO). Crews found carbon monoxide readings as high as 2000 parts per million in the building. The building did not have carbon monoxide detectors installed.
CO is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas which is produced by the combustion of fossil fuels, including natural gas, propane, charcoal and wood. Exposure to CO levels above 35 parts per million for a period of two hours or more can cause flu-like symptoms, exposure to levels between 200 and 800 parts per million can cause dizziness, drowsiness and vomiting in less than an hour, exposure to levels exceeding 800 parts million can cause unconsciousness, brain damage or death within minutes.
Following the determination that there were dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, all three members of the first arriving fire engine were transported to the hospital for evaluation. According to Fire Chief Mark Novak, “we are fortunate that the firefighters and paramedics rapidly recognized that this was potentially a carbon monoxide incident and evacuated the building, without their quick actions, the outcome could have been much different.”
The cause of the CO leak is under investigation. Fire officials want to remind members of the community that it is important to inspect all appliance vents after heavy snowfall to ensure that they are not blocked. The best protection against CO poisoning is to provide CO detectors on each level of your home. Rental units are required by law to have CO detectors. It is also recommended to have all fuel-burning appliances inspected annually by a licensed technician or anytime they do not operate correctly.
Assisting agencies included the Vail Police Department, Vail Public Works and Vail Public Safety Communications Center.
Contact: Fire Chief Mark Novak 970-471-0927
Vail Fire & Emergency Services