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'Full of carbon monoxide': Island couple says alarm may have saved their lives

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A couple in Port Alberni, B.C., is crediting a carbon monoxide detector with potentially saving their lives.

The alarm, which was gifted to them by a family member, alerted the couple to the odourless gas.

"All of a sudden we heard this beeping and we all kind of hear it, but ignored it, and then we were like, 'What was that?'" said Shelly Anderson.

Port Alberni residents Nori and Shelly Anderson are pictured. (CTV News)The beeping was the carbon monoxide detector sounding its alarm. At first, Anderson's husband, Nori, thought the device might be defective.

"Well, my husband [thought it was]," said Anderson with a laugh.

"I was immediately concerned, I always err on the side of caution," she said.

So, the couple called 911 and firefighters arrived.

"They came into the house and here it was full of carbon monoxide and we had no idea where it would come from," said Anderson.

It turns out, the carbon monoxide was filling the house because a wire mesh that had been installed at the top of the couple's chimney to keep birds out was blocked by creosote.

Port Alberni deputy fire chief Wes Patterson says carbon monoxide incidents are relatively rare, but five did occur last year and two have occurred this year.

"Carbon monoxide is an odourless, tasteless gas that you'd be breathing in if it's in the atmosphere," he said. "The problem is it's cumulative, so it builds up and stays in the system for a long time."

When carbon monoxide incidents do occur, Patterson says they can be serious.

"Serious enough that people have had to go to the hospital to be checked out," he said, adding that health professionals will check for carbon monoxide levels in patients' bloodstreams.

The fire department recommends that everyone get a carbon monoxide detector, which can be purchased at any building supply or hardware store.

The Andersons got their alarm as a gift from their daughter-in-law.

"She put in the detector. If she had not put that detector in in 2020, I may not be standing here today," said Anderson.

The family has now purchased a second detector for the upper level of their home as well. 

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