The cause of the carbon monoxide poisoning Wednesday in Wales that killed a man and injured his wife was a coal stove that expelled the deadly gas while the man was repairing it, according to a state investigation.
The man was repairing the stove with its door open while it was running, the Department of Fire Services said in a statement. The flue was full of ash, which prevented the stove from venting properly to the outside of the home on Brows Beach Road in the Hampden County town.
About 2:30 p.m., the man’s wife called 911 reporting that people in her home were feeling sick. Before the dispatcher could advise her to get out of the house to fresh air, she seemed to lose consciousness, the statement said.
Firefighters arrived at the home to find the woman and a pet unconscious, and her husband overcome in the basement, where the coal stove was located, the statement said.
“On behalf of the Wales Fire Department, I offer heartfelt condolences to the family,” Fire Chief John Croke said. “I want to ask everyone who lives in Wales to make sure they have working carbon monoxide and smoke alarms before going to sleep tonight.”
Officials found a carbon monoxide alarm on the home’s kitchen counter without batteries. Four smoke alarms were also found in the home — one with no battery, and three that were expired and more than 10 years old, the statement said.
State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said carbon monoxide is an “invisible killer.”
He warned that a working carbon monoxide alarm is the only way to protect yourself from the gas because you cannot see, smell, or taste it.
“There should be one CO alarm on every level of your home, and outside the bedrooms,” Ostroskey said, adding that the alarms should be replaced every five to seven years, unless they are newer models with 10-year sealed batteries.
As the heating season approaches, fire officials advised residents to have professional cleanings and inspections prior to using wood, pellet, or coal stoves. Exposure to carbon monoxide can produce flu-like symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, confusion, and fainting, the statement said. Higher levels of exposure can cause unconsciousness and death.
“If you have any of these symptoms, or your CO alarm is sounding, move immediately to fresh air, call 911, and seek medical treatment,” Ostroskey said.
In 2017, Massachusetts fire departments responded to 15,755 carbon monoxide calls, with 4,688 of those calls involving elevated levels of the gas.Katie Camero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @camerokt_.