8 Poisoned by carbon monoxide at Mesa home, furnace to blame

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MESA, Ariz. -- Emergency crews from Rural Metro and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office were called to a Mesa home early Thursday morning after eight people reported feeling sick.

It started when the mother woke up to get ready for work. She stumbled out of bed was able to alert the rest of the family.

Shortly before 6 a.m., 911 was called. When deputies and emergency crews arrived at the home near Broadway and Crismon road, they hustled the family out of the house, moving them as far away as possible.

"We found that everybody had elevated level of carbon monoxide," said Capt. Jeff Chesleigh of the Rural Metro Fire Department.

The patients range in age from 2 to 45. All of them were taken to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Hospital where they will be placed in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. The intense oxygen therapy should flush the carbon monoxide from the patients' bodies and help counteract the effects of the gas.

The patients are expected to recover, said a Rural Metro fire captain.

Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless, which makes it extremely difficult for people to detect. That's why it's often referred to as the "silent killer."

Carbon monoxide is produced by gas-powered tools, heaters and cooking equipment.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include shortness of breath, nausea, headache, light-headedness and dizziness. High levels of carbon monoxide can be fatal within minutes.

Southwest Gas was called to the scene to try and find the source of the carbon monoxide. They quickly ruled out the water heater as the cause. The next step was to take a look at the home's furnace.

"We did find some reads at the gas furnace," said Anne Seiden of Southwest Gas. "That was because of improper ventilation for that appliance. There was a piece of Sheetrock™ at the front of it."

Rural Metro said this is their first carbon monoxide call of the cold season.

Firefighters say this morning's incident should serve as a remind to people to test their heaters and furnaces, and also to consider investing in a carbon monoxide detector.