Near fatal carbon monoxide incident in Madison - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Near fatal carbon monoxide incident helps fire fighters raise awareness of poisonous gas


MADISON (WKOW)-- A Madison man is lucky to be alive after his furnace malfunctioned and filled his home with carbon monoxide earlier this month.

Fire fighters who responded to the call used a specially made reader that detected more than 2,000 parts per million of carbon monoxide coming out of a 70-year-old furnace on the property. A safe amount in your home is anything less than 50 parts per million.

Had it not been for the homeowners carbon monoxide detector nearby fire fighters say the elderly man could have died in minutes.

"It's something that can creep up on you. It's almost like flu-like symptoms to start with and usually a nice pounding headache," Madison Fire Department Lt. Doug Rohn says.

Fire fighters say it's one of the most common calls they get especially during the winter with everyone running their furnaces and heaters. Just a small amount of unburned gas can quickly fill your home and cause problems.

The colorless and odorless gas quickly clings to the body's hemoglobin in the blood and starts to draw out oxygen. Eventually you suffocate and die. That's why carbon monoxide detectors are required for every level of your home.

"To get these detectors ready all you have to do is place a 9-volt battery in there. Put the cover back in place and plug the unit in and test it," Rohn says.

Detectors should be replaced at least every ten years and you should test it once a month. This time of year Madison fire fighters receive carbon monoxide calls daily.

The most common culprits are water heaters and furnaces that don't properly burn off all of their fuel. Fire fighters suggest getting them checked by a technician once a year. Calls also come from people warming up their cars in the winter.

"Don't do it indoors. Don't do it in an attached garage," Rohn says. "If you do it in detached garages there's still going to be elevated levels in there when you go to get your car out."

Thanks to a federal grant Madison fire fighters are now installing detectors in Madison homes free of charge. They do have a few qualifications before handing them out.    

Someone in your home must be either:

-65-years-old or older

-5-years-old or younger

-Or living with a disability


If you qualify the department will:

-Provide smoke alarms with a 10-year lithium battery

-Provide carbon monoxide alarms

-Install the alarms

-Provide fire safety information and education

Anyone interested in applying should contact Lori Wirth at


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