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1 dead, 7 hospitalized after carbon monoxide exposure in South Anchorage home

  • Author: Chris Klint
  • Updated: February 20, 2017
  • Published February 20, 2017

One person died and several others were affected by carbon monoxide exposure at a South Anchorage home Monday morning.

The Anchorage Fire Department said in a brief statement that crews were called at 8:20 a.m. to a home on the 4800 block of Shoshoni Avenue, off DeArmoun Road near Elmore Road.

"Responders found one person deceased and transported seven patients to the hospital," firefighters wrote.

The Anchorage Fire Department responded to a report of carbon monoxide poisoning at a home on Shoshoni Drive in South Anchorage on Feb. 20, 2017. One person died and seven were hospitalized in the incident, AFD said. (Chris Klint / Alaska Dispatch News)

AFD's deputy chief for operations, Jodie Hettrick, said the source of the gas wasn't immediately clear. She said Monday night a fire investigator still needs to speak with the people who were in the home before pinning down a clear cause.

A crew from natural gas utility Enstar was at the scene Monday morning.

"It is a single-family residence and this was one family," Hettrick said.

It wasn't clear whether a family member or someone else had initially called firefighters to the scene.

"We were called originally for a cardiac arrest for one of the patients," Hettrick said. "It was not reported as a CO call, and then when our crews got on scene we determined that there was more going on."

Firefighters were trying to determine Monday morning whether the home had working carbon monoxide detectors, which typically trigger when they detect 30 parts per million of CO in household air.

"We found 1,000 parts per million in the house," Hettrick said. "We don't commonly see 1,000."

Sherrie Simmonds, who lives a few houses uphill along Shoshoni, said the family moved into the quiet neighborhood after building the home about six years ago. Simmonds hadn't regularly spoken with them since they threw an arrival party for locals.

"We just had a Christmas get-together — they just invited the neighbors," Simmonds said.

Although she saw the emergency vehicles at the home Monday, Simmonds said she didn't know what happened until she saw word from police and fire officials.

Between 1999 and 2010, about 430 people annually died from carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The colorless, odorless gas can be produced by equipment like gas- or oil-fired furnaces and charcoal grills.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has numerous suggestions for preventing carbon monoxide exposure, such as keeping working carbon monoxide detectors on every level of the home and running generators outdoors, in well-ventilated areas away from windows and vents.

The agency also recommends keeping dryer, stove and furnace vents clear of debris, a particular consideration in Alaska, where snow and ice can build up and clog exhaust vents. The state Department of Health and Social Services said boiler-room vents blocked with ice were to blame for carbon monoxide poisoning incidents that sickened a total of eight people at two Anchorage businesses in December.

Hettrick on Monday urged people to clear their vents, especially given Anchorage's relatively heavy snowfall so far this winter.

"We don't know if that is a contributor (to the Shoshoni case), but that's something that we want people to keep an eye on and shovel around the house," Hettrick said.

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