Fire service experiences a peak in carbon monoxide poisoning alerts

CARBON monoxide (CO) levels at a Camborne home where three members of the same family died were 20 times the normal lethal dose, the fire service has confirmed.

Mark Pratten, crew manager in prevention with Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service, said it was believed a cooker, possibly used to keep the static caravan warm, was at fault.

On entering the mobile home on Saturday afternoon fire crews found John and Audrey Cook in the living room area while their daughter was in one of the bedrooms.

Mr Pratten said: “We used monitoring equipment when we got to the building and the alarm went off the scale.

“We knew there was a large reading and the information we received showed over 10,000 parts per million (ppm) which is about 20 times the normal lethal dose. The main point that we were looking at was the gas cooker, which was on. We could not say it was faulty and initially we said it was a usage thing.”

He believed carbon monoxide had been building up slowly in the property at Tremarle Home Park. He said anyone exposed to the detected level would fall unconscious within minutes. “But,” he added, “we do not believe that was the level immediately and it would have been building up in the property.”

Mr Pratten said people exposed to carbon monoxide gas usually feel nauseous, dizzy, disoriented and forgetful.

In such circumstances they should evacuate the building, call 999 and ask for the fire service.

The fire service has experienced a peak in the number of calls involving CO poisonings. It has dealt with 30 calls, including the four recent fatalities, since September.

According to Mr Pratten the increased number of calls was mainly down to the economic downturn, with people not affording to have their boilers maintained or chimneys swept.

He added: “The economic downturn plays a part in this as people can’t afford to have their boilers serviced or woodburners cleaned. But also old properties with double-glazed windows prevent air from moving keeping it trapped inside. The increased number of calls is also down to our awareness work with more people buying CO detectors and then realising they have got a problem.”

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