Family Saved From Monoxide Poisoning

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:22:00 PM

Firefighters saved seven members of a West Berkeley family from a Friday the 13th early morning encounter with a silent, deadly killer—carbon monoxide. 

A 911 call from a resident of a home in the 1500 block of Sixth Street reported that one member of the household had fainted and two others were “feeling dizzy.” 

But when firefighters arrived, they found a more alarming scene, with four adults “in extremis,” a fifth unconscious and suffering from head injuries, and a toddler and an infant suffering as well. 

“We evacuated the residence after we realized they were all suffering from the same complaints, said Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong. 

The rescue workers quickly discovered that the family members were all suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, with levels of the odorless gas inside the home nearly three times those at which emergency workers are required to don breathing gear, he said. 

All the poisoning victims were given oxygen, and the unconscious victim, who had struck his head as he fell to the floor, was rushed to the Highland Hospital emergency room. 

Because of the multitude of victims, Berkeley called on other nearby departments to send ambulances to help in transporting the remaining six victims to other hospitals. 

Three other victims showing the worst symptoms were rushed to Castro Valley’s Eden Hospital for treatment in that facility’s hyperbaric chamber, where patients are enclosed in a metal cylinder and administered oxygen under pressure to drive out the carbon monoxide. 

The three others were dispatched to the Alta Bates Summit Medical center emergency room. 

All are expected to recover, said Deputy Chief Dong. 

“We determined that the cause of the poisoning was a charcoal barbecue which had been used earlier in the evening and kept too close to an open window, allowing the carbon monoxide to get into the home,” he said. 

Friday morning’s incident was the city’s second reported carbon monoxide emergency this year, with both occurring on Friday the 13th. 

The earlier incident happened last month in an apartment building in the 2700 block of Durant Avenue. Alerted by the alarm of a carbon monoxide detector, a resident called 911 and firefighters arrived before anyone was affected severely enough to require hospitalization. 

There was no detector in the residence in the latest, more serious incident. 

“Every residence should have one,” said the deputy chief. “They’re available at any hardware store for between $25 and $50.”