Whiteland firefighters rescue 2 from carbon monoxide-filled duplex

Two people were taken to a hospital after carbon monoxide incident in Whiteland early Tuesday morning.

Whiteland firefighters were called to a residence on Pearl Street just after 4 a.m. for a possible carbon monoxide incident with multiple people feeling sick. After arriving, crews from Engine 71 found two people outside a duplex structure feeling sick from possible carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Whiteland Fire Department.

First responders quickly rendered aid to the people outside the home and then made entry into the structure to check the carbon monoxide, or CO, levels in the home. A crew found the residence to be within “explosive limits” for natural gas, along with very high CO levels, the department said.

“As soon as they walked inside the house, the meters started going off,” said Eric Funkhouser, Whiteland fire chief. “There’s a limit on natural gas, a level where it falls between where it’s in the explosive limit. So when they went in, the alarm went off for that. It also went off, basically, for the CO because the CO was very high in that side of the duplex.”

With natural gas, if it’s too little or too much, it won’t ignite or be at the explosive level. The levels inside the home fell between lower and upper explosive limits — making ignition possible, Funkhouser said.

“When it falls right in that middle between those two, that’s where it’s dangerous,” he said.

Firefighters began ventilating the structure and went to the other side of the structure to check for any more people inside. Multiple attempts were made to make contact with the occupants but there was no response.

Firefighters decided to force open a door on the other side of the duplex due to a car being in the driveway and after neighbors said someone lived there. Inside, they found an unconscious male in the back bedroom on the floor next to his bed, the department said.

They quickly removed the man from the structure and provided medical care in the front yard with assistance from a crew from New Whiteland Fire Engine 11. The man regained consciousness outside the structure and was transported to the hospital for further evaluation, the department said.

A total of two people were transported to the hospital in stable condition. The New Whiteland Fire Department, Bargersville Fire Department EMS and the Whiteland Police Department assisted.

The cause of the incident is still under investigation. Investigators are looking at all sources of gas in the house to determine what caused the leak, which could have been from a furnace or a water heater, Funkhouser said.

He is also thankful that fire crews made entry into the home when they did and got the unconscious man out.

“Being unconscious on the floor, you never know how much longer they would have had in an environment like that,” Funkhouser said. “I’m very, very thankful for the work they did this morning and that … the people on the other side called 911 and were able to alert us to the problem, and for us to be able to get there and make a difference.”

Funkhouser does not believe there was a carbon monoxide detector present in the home. Incidents like this serve as a reminder of how important CO detectors are, he said.

“I saw somebody posted that [CO is] the silent killer — and that’s the truth,” Funkhouser said.

CO is odorless, so people are not able to smell it. On the other hand, natural gas has an odor.

“If you ever smell natural gas in your house, obviously pick up the phone and call 911,” Funkhouser said. “With having a CO detector in your home, if the CO levels would rise to where it’s going to be dangerous, or if you start getting CO in your house, a CO2 detector is going to alert you to that.”

As winter arrives and people start using alternative heating sources, having a CO detector is just another way to alert people of a problem that’s going on in the house. It’s no different than having working fire alarms or smoke detectors, he said.

“It just makes a lot of sense to check those right now, especially as we’re going into these colder months, and to make sure that you have those in place,” Funkhouser said.