Carbon monoxide poisoning is apparently to blame for the deaths of two men who were running a generator in an unventilated garage, San Bernardino County Fire Department officials say.
The incident occurred Jan. 22 near the California High Desert town of Lucerne Valley. A woman brought a 23-year-old male family member to firefighters at Fire Station 8 at approximately 10 a.m., but he had no pulse and was later pronounced dead at an Apple Valley hospital.
A short time later, dispatchers received a call to a house on Laramie Street, and emergency responders found a 28-year-old victim, also male, lying in the garage.
The second victim died at the scene. Autopsies to confirm cause of death will be conducted, and the names of the two men have not yet been released.
Dangerous Carbon Monoxide Levels
Fire department spokesperson Tracey Martinez said that when firefighters opened the garage door, a handheld toxic fume detection device confirmed lethal levels of carbon monoxide.
“It takes about 9 parts per million [of carbon monoxide] to kill you. And when we got there, it was 84 — with the garage door open and ventilating,” said Martinez, quoted by local newspaper the Press-Enterprise.
Carbon monoxide, which is a byproduct of combustion, is both odorless and colorless. In this case, it appears to have been produced by a generator that was found still running in the garage.
“It is advised to never leave your vehicle or other combustible engine machines such as, generators and space heaters, running while unattended, in your garage,” says Phil Cabral, President, Sunwest Garage Door. “Even when fully opened a garage door cannot provide adequate exhaust evacuation from a running vehicle. Garages are usually attached to a living space, and the carbon monoxide from a running vehicle can present a potential health hazard to home occupants.”
Taking Safety Precautions
Fire officials released a written statement educating homeowners on the dangers of generators and carbon monoxide poisoning in general.
“Carbon monoxide around a generator and its exhaust tube can build up within minutes, even outdoors,” it read, cautioning all generator users to run them only in well-ventilated areas and to properly vent exhaust.
The statement also strongly urged residents to purchase carbon monoxide detectors. “If you own a portable generator, you should buy a carbon monoxide detector now,” it read. “Not tomorrow.”