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Fire chief urges safe use of water pumps following carbon monoxide call

FORT KENT, Maine — A gas generated water pump being used in a Main Street basement led to dangerously high carbon monoxide levels in the home on Sunday, April 29.

Firefighters who responded to the call shortly after noon metered the building, a duplex at 61 East Main Stree, and found high levels of the toxic gas, according to Fire Chief Ed Endee.

The duplex is divided into an upstairs and downstairs apartment according to Endee. An upstairs resident contacted the FKFD when a carbon monoxide detector in that apartment sounded. People living on the first floor of the building were not at home when firefighters arrived.

Endee contacted Ambulance Service Inc. to examine the residents of the second floor apartment, who were not harmed by the carbon monoxide, he said.

“The concentration on the first floor showed extremely high levels of carbon monoxide,” Endee said. “Had anyone been home at the time they would have experienced very ill effects, if not worse than that from the carbon monoxide.”

The fire chief said that the high CO levels were caused by a pump placed in the basement to remove leaking water.

“A contractor had placed a gas powered pump to pump water out of the cellar,” Endee said.  

The firefighters used smoke ejector fans to ventilate the building after shutting down the water pump and removing it from the basement.

The firefighters remained on scene until oxygen levels in the home returned to normal and the residents were able to safely re-enter the building.

“This is a very stark reminder that you should not operate gas powered equipment of any kind, whether it be a water pump or generator or anything else, anywhere in a house or building that’s occupied,” Endee said. He added that any gas or propane powered engine should be operated outside at least several feet away from such a structure.

Endee said he would like to remind people that carbon monoxide fumes are both odorless and tasteless, so people can be overcome by the fumes without even realizing there is a problem. That’s also why it is important to have carbon monoxide detectors in homes.

“You’re not going to know about the fumes, especially at night; you can become overcome by the fumes at night and never wake up,” he said.

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