Vancouver Fire and Rescue warns public about carbon monoxide dangers

Sierra Simpson / January 16th, 2019

Carbon monoxide is known as the ‘Silent Killer’ as it is a colourless, odorless, tasteless, and non-irritating gas.
(SignSmart / Flickr)

After some Vancouver citizens barely escaped a tragic incident when a furnace malfunction produced a carbon monoxide leak yesterday, Vancouver Fire Rescue Services warn the public about the danger.  Crews responded to a call for medical distress where they found high levels of CO in the household.  Vancouver Fire Rescue believe the CO leak was caused by a faulty water heater or furnace. Nine residents were assessed by paramedics. Three people, including two children, were taken to hospital for treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning.

CO is a colourless, odourless gas emitted from fuels including wood, gasoline, coal, and propane when they don’t burn completely.  When inhaled the highly poisonous gas reduces the body’s ability to carry oxygen in the blood, causing illness and even death.  Signs of CO exposure include headache, confusion, and flu like symptoms.

Vancouver Fire and Rescue advise homeowners to buy carbon monoxide detectors and maintain them regularly.

“Carbon monoxide alarms are the only way to effectively alert occupants to the presence of the gas, and should be installed in any residence when fuels are used for cooking, heating or hot water. Batteries need to be checked biannually along with smoke alarm batteries, and the unit’s expiry date kept in mind.” – Joe Foster, Assistant Fire Chief for Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.

Foster says cooler wet weather means families will be using their furnaces, which should be checked by a technician every year to make sure the venting and exhaust systems work as designed.  Combustion appliances not designed for indoor use such as barbecues, hibachis, or gas heaters should be used outdoors only in a well-ventilated area and away from open windows or doors.

Carbon monoxide detectors are mandatory in Ontario and the Yukon, but they are not mandatory in B.C. buildings constructed before 2006 and most homes have yet to acquire them. The deadly gas kills an average of 300 people per year in Canada, that’s more than the average of 200 people a year who die in fires.

Fire deaths in B.C. dropped by 65 percent when smoke detectors were legislated. The question is why hasn’t B.C. followed Ontarios lead and mandated CO detectors in all buildings? The detecting devices cost between $30 to $60 dollars and are easily installed.

Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services have responded to over 40 carbon monoxide related calls annually.  Anyone who is alerted by a CO detector to advised to immediately leave the premise and call 9-1-1.