Dawsonite survives CO scare

A push reminding people to have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in their homes has already saved a life. Two weekends ago, a woman living in West Dawson decided to change the batteries in her carbon monoxide detector.

A push reminding people to have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in their homes has already saved a life.

Two weekends ago, a woman living in West Dawson decided to change the batteries in her carbon monoxide detector. She had heard about a campaign to get detectors in all homes in the Klondike area, said Dawson City Fire Chief Jim Regimbal.

The detector went off right away.

When firefighters came to check, they found a nearly lethal level of the odourless gas in the home.

“They were at such a high level that in four to eight hours she would have lapsed into unconsciousness,” he said.

Regimbal said before the woman discovered the gas, she had been experiencing flu-like symptoms and had fallen down the stairs.

A propane fridge was eventually found to be the culprit.

Firefighters from the Dawson City Fire Department and the Klondike Valley Fire Department will visit homes across the Klondike in the next couple of months to hand out combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarms. They will even install the new alarms to any households without them.

“We’ll install them for you. These things save lives. I’d hate to see something terrible happen and find one of the units sitting on the counter,” Regimbal said.

The units plug into the wall and have a battery that lasts about 10 years.

So far about 600 alarms have found new homes in the greater Dawson area.

“We got to everyone across the river about three weeks ago before freeze-up,” Regimbal said.

The combination units were paid for by multiple donors, including the manufacturer Kidde Canada.

It’s important for the Dawson area to take a leadership role in this campaign because of the high number of people who use potentially dangerous heating sources, said Regimbal.

“I think here we have more people using wood-burning appliances and also living off the grid with propane,” he said.

In January 2012, the Rusk family – Brad, Val and their children Gabe and Rebekah – and family friend Donald McNamee died of carbon monoxide poisoning in their Porter Creek home.

In the wake of those deaths, carbon monoxide detectors flew off the shelves around the territory.

Regimbal said he thinks some of the diligence people show now is in part due to those deaths.

“It’s tragic that is takes something like that,” he said.

Earlier this year Yukon became the first jurisdiction in Canada to require carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in all residences, including rental units, with fuel burning appliances or an attached garage.

The chief was quick to point out that the Yukon legislation was completed within a year while Ontario lawmakers have been working for the last four years on something similar.

Regimbal is looking to expand the campaign beyond the Dawson area and give the alarms to households in the rest of the territory.

He started with 900 units to hand out, but would like to eventually obtain many more.

“So obviously I’m going to be looking for partnerships,” he said.

Cindy Anderson with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada said her department will be contributing to the cause. An exact amount has not yet been decided.

Contact Ashley Joannou at


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