43 people at Saskatoon apartment building treated for carbon monoxide poisoning

The Saskatoon Fire Department (SFD) says a carbon monoxide leak at an apartment building was a dangerous situation that could have resulted in multiple deaths.

The department said it received a call just after 6 p.m. Thursday reporting the possible presence of carbon monoxide at 12 Bateman Cres.

A detector returned an initial carbon monoxide reading of 350 ppm, fire officials said, with readings in the main hallway over 200 ppm.

“This was a serious incident that could have turned out very differently,” SFD Chief Morgan Hackl said.

“There’s no doubt, many lives were saved.”

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The cause was traced to the boiler room.

SaskEnergy crews reported a reading of 412 ppm and said the boiler had rusted and exhaust was being pumped into the building.

The apartment building is closed and the SFD said it will remain that way until repairs are completed.

Around 50 people were evacuated from the building and Medavie Health Services West (MHS) said paramedics took 29 people to hospital for treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) said Saskatoon City Hospital took in 17 adult and 16 pediatric patients while Royal University Hospital and Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital took in four adults and six children.

It added all patients were treated and discharged from the emergency department.

MHS spokesperson Troy Davies said a Code Orange was called and they activated their special operations unit.

Twenty-five people were taken to City Hospital for treatment. Davies said 18 patients were transported in the special operations unit, with SFD members providing assistance.

Four patients were taken to Royal University Hospital.

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Davies said this is the highest number of carbon monoxide patients he recalls paramedics treating at one time in 25 years.

“Paramedics would like to personally thank Dr. (Mark) Wahba for his quick response that could have turned out much worse, and also thank all ER department staff for the amazing job triaging patients,” Davis said in a statement.

He added that all 29 patients are in stable condition.

The SFD said it is inspecting other neighbouring buildings and has closed the apartment building at 20 Bateman Cres. due to boiler issues and improper ventilation.

Roughly 50 residents have been evacuated from the building and the SFD said it is not known when they will be allowed to return to their suites.

Fire officials added the property owner is arranging for hotel rooms for the evacuated residents and has secured 30 carbon monoxide detectors for installation in the building.

“The Saskatoon Fire Department urges all residential homes and multi-unit residences to have carbon monoxide alarms. They save lives,” Hackl said.

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odourless and poisonous gas.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness and confusion in low concentrations, according to the Lung Association of Saskatchewan.

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It can cause comas and death in higher concentrations.

The Lung Association of Saskatchewan says every household should have a carbon monoxide detector.

The SFD said homeowners and property owners can take steps to protect homes from carbon monoxide poisoning.

They said furnaces, water heaters, chimney vents and pipes need to be kept free of obstructions.

All gas equipment and appliances should be properly installed, maintained and serviced by a licensed contractor and the manufacturer’s directions for proper operation and care need to be followed.

Generators, barbecues and portable propane heaters should only be used outside and vehicles and fuelled engines should not be left running indoors.

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How to find the right carbon monoxide detector – Nov 2, 2020

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