Five Philadelphia firefighters were rushed to the hospital after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning while fighting an underground electrical fire in West Chester yesterday. Six other firefighters were evaluated and monitored on the scene after high levels of carbon monoxide were released by an underground transformer. One firefighter was kept overnight in the hospital for monitoring. All are expected to recover.
CO poisoning is normally a winter event caused by household appliances that burn gas, oil, coal and wood. It can also happen by running a car engine in an enclosed space such as a garage. CDC statistics released in 2014 indicate there are approximately 500 deaths from unintentional, non-fire-related carbon monoxide poisoning a year.
The firefighters were in a basement of a nearby home. The fire had spread from the underground transformer via the cable to an electrical box in the home. Local residents and businesses in the vicinity were evacuated for a few hours and the fire department said it would go door-to-door to check carbon monoxide levels of the homes and businesses in the area.
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headaches, dizziness, upset stomach, confusion, weakness, vomiting, and chest pain. Prolonged exposure to the colorless, odorless gas can be fatal.
In 2013, a jury verdict against an apartment company in Wyoming awarded $28.2 million to a woman poisoned by carbon monoxide that suffered permanent brain injury.
There are many potential sources of liability in the event of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you are a tenant in a building, your landlord may have a duty to install and maintain a working carbon monoxide detector. If carbon monoxide is leaking because of a malfunctioning appliance, the manufacturer, home builder or installation team may be liable.
If you or a family member are seriously injured by carbon monoxide, please call our office at (215) 545-8800 to discuss whether a lawsuit against the owner or manufacturer of the source of the carbon monoxide is appropriate.