Man’s death highlights importance of heating safety

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A man’s death over the weekend, likely caused by carbon monoxide exposure, could have been prevented.

That’s the message from the Newport News Fire Department as temperatures drop and people turn to gas, oil, and propane to heat their homes.

Battalion Chief Stephen Pincus shared safety tips with 10 On Your Side, and explained how a new device helped keep firefighters safe during the call to Christian Street Saturday afternoon.

Around 12:30 p.m. Saturday, a woman called 911 from inside her home, complaining of stroke-like symptoms.

But when firefighters arrived, Pincus said, portable carbon monoxide monitors attached to their homes told them something different was going on: levels of the gas had soared to lethal levels, more than 20 times what’s considered safe.

“Those levels can build really rapidly, especially in an enclosed space,” said Pincus. “It’s dangerous for [firefighters] to even walk in there, so they put on their self-contained breathing apparatus and went in the house.”

Inside, firefighters found 55-year-old Stephen Alexander Harris already dead.

In the meantime, paramedics began treating the 53-year-old woman for carbon monoxide exposure, and rushed her to the hospital.

“I would say she’s extremely lucky that she called 911 and that she was removed from the area,” Pincus sad. “The longer you have the exposure, it gets to a critical point where [doctors] really can’t reverse it, so she is very fortunate.”

Pincus attributed the likely source of the gas to a heater attached to a propane bottle, which was not meant to be used indoors.”That’s why it’s so important that people pay attention to instructions that the manufacturer gives you,” he said.

As winter approaches, Pincus said everyone should have their heating systems checked by a qualified professional, and install carbon monoxide detectors.

If your detector alerts you to high levels, the Newport News Fire Department will come out and find the source. For more carbon monoxide safety tips, click here.

Comments are closed.