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Phone: 503-823-3700

Fax: 503-823-3710

55 SW Ash Street, Portland, OR 97204

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Father's Quick Action Saves Family from Deadly Carbon Monoxide Poisoning


Firefighters from Portland Fire's Station 20 in Sellwood responded to a medical emergency call at 5:55 am at SE 15th and Lambert.  Upon arrival, firefighters discovered that a family of three – a father, mother, and child - were suffering acute signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.   

Initial reports came in that a child was suffering a seizure.  To the surprise of responding firefighters, they found the mother and child lying on the landing at the bottom of the home's stairs.  The father, who reported the emergency to 9-1-1, was in a confused and agitated state and told firefighters he was not feeling well.  

These clues tipped off firefighters that something greater was going on in the home.  After further investigation, they learned that the family had arrived home from vacation at midnight.  Needing to warm their home, they turned on their gas furnace and a supplemental freestanding gas appliance connected to the fireplace.  

Believing that the family could be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, firefighters tested the home's air with gas detectors and found carbon monoxide levels were at 400 ppm.  Firefighters immediately shut off all gas appliances, opened all windows and doors, and all three individuals were transported to Providence Medical Center.  

Carbon monoxide levels at 400 ppm are deadly and firefighters estimate that at this level of exposure, the family had less than an hour to survive.  Portland Fire & Rescue does not allow its firefighters to be exposed to air that exceeds 35 ppm without self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), which illustrates how high the carbon monoxide concentration was in the air of this home.  

"Between 35 ppm and 100 ppm a person will experience flu-like symptoms after an hour of exposure to carbon monoxide," said Public Information Officer Paul Corah.  "Because of the father's quick actions, his family is alive today.  This demonstrates why anyone who believes they have an emergency should not delay and call 9-1-1 immediately."

Portland Fire & Rescue reminds citizens that properly maintained furnace/heating equipment is key to lowering exposure to carbon monoxide.  Because carbon monoxide is an odorless and tasteless gas that cannot be detected without equipment, it is imperative that citizens purchase and install a carbon monoxide alarm in their homes.  These alarms can save lives.