Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 8:53 am | Updated: 8:54 am, Tue Dec 31, 2013.
Jeff Richardson / firstname.lastname@example.org
FAIRBANKS – Three people were hospitalized on Friday at Love INC with carbon monoxide poisoning, a problem blamed on a faulty boiler at the nonprofit organization.
The victims — Executive Director Debbie Cloninger, Clearinghouse Director Tina Basile and an employee’s 12-year-old son — have been released from the hospital are expected to fully recover. The organization, which serves as a clearinghouse for local charities, will be closed until a new boiler is installed on Jan. 6.
Cloninger said she and Basile, who work in different areas of the 26th Avenue facility, both began feeling sick at about 4 p.m. Friday. Cloninger had been feeling dizzy and nauseous, and realized there was a problem when Basile said she was also having unusual symptoms. The boy, who eventually passed out, was also feeling ill.
Cloninger said they called 911 and left the building.
“It was very scary,” Cloninger said. “We pretty much knew something was happening then.”
Cloninger and Basile were treated and released from Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. The boy at the building remained hospitalized overnight for observation and was released the next morning.
Ernie Misewicz, assistant fire chief for the Fairbanks Fire Department, said carbon monoxide readings in the building were at more than 200 parts per million when authorities arrived. Readings of 35 ppm are enough to trigger a warning from a CO detector, he said.
Fire officials ventilated the building and diagnosed the boiler as the source of the carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness or death.
Love INC didn’t have a carbon- monoxide detector on site at the time, Misewicz said. The detectors are only required in buildings where people sleep overnight or where motor vehicles are present, he said.
Misewicz said carbon monoxide sickness is a bigger threat during colder months, when houses are tighter and heating devices are running more frequently.
“In the wintertime our houses are closed up,” he said. “We don’t have the air exchange you have in the summer.”
Cloninger said she was feeling much better on Monday but still hadn’t fully recovered. Doctors told her residual effects of carbon monoxide poisoning can last 30 days or longer, she said.
Cloninger said the installation of a new $8,000 boiler had previously been planned to replace the malfunctioning boiler that caused the problem. A forced-air heater has been installed to keep the building warm and CO detectors have also been put in place. “It was definitely an experience I don’t want to go through again,” Cloninger said.