Four people hospitalized after carbon monoxide exposure

Bowerston fire officials warn of dangers of using alternate fuel sources

BOWERSTON — Four members of the same family were hospitalized Tuesday after being overcome by carbon monoxide in their home.

Bowerston Volunteer Fire Department posted on Facebook at about 2 p.m. that its members and other Harrison County first responders had handled a “small mass casualty incident” earlier in the day. It noted that the incident should serve as a learning experience for the public about the dangers of carbon monoxide.

Bowerston VFD Capt. Adam Reardon described the situation via phone late Tuesday afternoon. He said his department received a medical call for multiple patients inside of a residence experiencing illness. He said the initial information provided by dispatchers led responders to believe carbon monoxide was likely the culprit, which prompted them to ramp up their response.

Reardon said in addition to ambulances, a fire engine was dispatched to the scene. When the initial crew arrived, they found one individual outside of the structure who said the whole family was ill and that he felt somewhat better after leaving the building and stepping outside.

“In our world, that’s a big indicator of carbon monoxide,” Reardon said.

He noted that the medical responders did not have respiratory protection for themselves upon arrival, so at first they administered aid to two victims who were able to leave the home on their own.

Reardon said the engine arrived quickly, providing equipment for breathing protection so that responders could enter the building, where they removed two victims who were unable to get themselves out.

“All four were severely ill with carbon monoxide poisoning,” Reardon said, confirming that all four victims were adult members of the same family who lived at the home. “They had utilized a propane stove with improper ventilation and there were high levels of carbon monoxide in the home.”

Reardon said he took a carbon monoxide meter into the building during the rescue operation and detected very high levels of the colorless, odorless gas in the home.

Bowerston VFD received assistance at the scene from the Urichsville, Scio and Tappan Lake fire departments.

“Urichsville was an absolute godsend,” he said, noting that it transported two patients in its ambulances while Bowerston transported the other two. The patients were taken to Trinity Hospital Twin City in Dennison and Cleveland Clinic Union Hospital in Dover.

Reardon pointed out that Bowerston VFD last year began using paid personnel rather than all volunteers. He said this made a huge difference in the department’s ability to respond immediately to the call for help.

While no fatalities occurred, Reardon said the responders discovered “four very critical patients” and it was deemed a “mass casualty” event because the demands exceeded the initial capabilities of the first crew of responders.

“We had two fire departments almost out of service in order to mitigate this call,” he said, noting the home was located in a very rural area near Bowerston.

He said the four individuals are lucky to be alive.

“I believe they all will recover,” he added. “They will have to seek a lot of treatment.”

Reardon explained that carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in the body’s cells, so carbon monoxide poisoning requires special treatments to push the gas out of the cells.

He emphasized that it is important for the public to know that alternate fuel sources for heating or cooking are dangerous and require proper ventilation.

“If you are using fuel products such as propane for heat, hot water or cooking, make sure you have working carbon monoxide and smoke detectors,” he stressed. “If they had a carbon monoxide detector, it would have alerted them earlier and they could have evacuated.”

Reardon also thanked all agencies that provided mutual aid on the call.

“It’s great for us to have amazing partners like Urichsville and Union hospital,” he said. “And the dispatchers at the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department did an amazing job.”


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