Family saved by carbon monoxide alarm

A Whitehorse family of four is safe after a car was accidentally left running in their garage, triggering the carbon monoxide detector in their home. The fire department responded to a call to the Takhini North home around 10:20 p.m. Thursday.

A Whitehorse family of four is safe after a car was accidentally left running in their garage, triggering the carbon monoxide detector in their home.

The fire department responded to a call to the Takhini North home around 10:20 p.m. Thursday, said Clive Sparks, Whitehorse’s fire chief.

Residents had left the building after their carbon monoxide detector was set off.

The officer at the scene found extremely elevated levels of carbon monoxide in the garage, where a car had been left idling, said Sparks.

The car had been running long enough to burn all of the available oxygen in the garage and choke itself out, he said.

“The levels in the garage we estimate were high enough that if anybody had gone into the garage at that point they probably would have been unconscious within a few moments, and could have easily died in there if nobody else had known they were in there.”

Carbon monoxide levels in the house had reached 100 parts per million, which is enough to trigger the alarm.

At that level, there would have been no risk to the health or safety of the residents, said Sparks.

Fire officials responded by using their ventilation equipment to circulate fresh air throughout the garage and house. That process took about 30 minutes, said Sparks.

The home was a newer building, constructed after a 2005 change to national building codes that required installation of carbon monoxide detectors in all new buildings with a fuel-burning furnace or attached garage.

The Yukon government hopes to pass legislation this spring that will require the devices in older buildings as well.

This story is a reminder to make sure carbon monoxide detectors are installed and in good working order, said Sparks.

It is also a warning to never leave a car running in a closed garage, he added.

The Whitehorse Fire Department responded to 34 carbon monoxide-related emergencies in 2012, compared with seven in 2011.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at jronson@yukon-news.com