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Last Posted: 23-Jan-2011 | Total Posts: 5

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Using stove for heat can be fatal

Airco Services heating and cooling technician Dave Spears uses a carbon monoxide detector probe to check for cracks and leaks in this outside gas furnace heat exchanger. When he found one, the city of Tulsa's "mechanical code" forced him to shut off the gas to this house until the unit could be repaired or replaced. Tulsa World file

By PHIL MULKINS World Action Line Editor 
Published: 1/22/2012  2:27 AM 
Last Modified: 1/22/2012  2:44 AM

There were no carbon monoxide poisoning deaths in Tulsa County in 2011, although the Emergency Medical Services Authority answered 104 "requests for assistance with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning," said agency spokesman Chris Stevens. 

This year, there has been one death of "suspected carbon monoxide poisoning," but autopsy results are still pending with the state Medical Examiner's Office. 

On Jan. 11, a 53-year-old man was pronounced dead at St. John Medical Center and a 51-year-old woman was hospitalized in fair condition with an "elevated carbon monoxide" level after EMSA answered a 911 call about "two people with breathing problems" at the Plaza Hills East apartment complex, 13025 E. 16th Place in Tulsa. 

Tulsa Fire Department Capt. Michael Baker said the apartment's carbon monoxide level was five times the safe level. TFD's Hazardous Materials Unit tested the room air and found it contained 53 parts per million of carbon monoxide. The Environmental Protection Agency's safe level for carbon monoxide is 9 parts per million. None of the other units in the apartment building had elevated carbon monoxide. 

Firefighters determined the carbon monoxide source was the apartment's oven and stove, Baker said. City code enforcement officials and an apartment maintenance crew removed the stove. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas produced by burning fuel (natural gas) and inadequate ventilation. This concentrates in the kitchen, posing a carbon monoxide poisoning threat. 

The Medical Examiner's Office in Tulsa identified the deceased as Larry Everett and the woman transported with him as his wife, Tammy Everett. She was released from the hospital Jan. 17 to attend her husband's funeral, said an Add'Vantage Funeral Service spokesman. Larry Wayne Everett Sr. was identified as having been a Tulsa Public Schools bus driver. The family could not be reached for comment. 

So far this "heating season," which began Nov. 30, the ambulance agency has transported 16 people (ages 18 months through 56 years) to area hospitals for "suspected carbon monoxide poisoning." During the power outage aftermath of the great 2007 ice storm, EMSA transported 60 to 75 people for "suspected carbon monoxide poisoning," and most had been found "heating with gas-fired kitchen stoves," Stevens said. When the lines are down there is no electricity for furnace blowers, leading people to heat with gas ranges. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets carbon monoxide exposure of 100 parts per million or greater as "dangerous to human health" and limits long-term workplace exposure to 50 ppm over one eight-hour period. Carbon monoxide exposure at higher levels "leads to a significantly shorter life span due to heart damage." 

Cheryl Reichman, manager of Tulsa's Development Services Division (the building permits agency), said, "The 2006 International Mechanical Code was adopted as Tulsa's mechanical code in 2009. It says new, unvented, natural gas burning appliances cannot be installed in new construction, without proper sensors," but does not require removal of properly functioning older units already in place in older homes. 

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

An Airco Service truck is pulled up in front of a Tulsa home that needs heating system repairs.

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An Airco Service truck is pulled up in front of a Tulsa home that needs heating system repairs.

TULSA, Oklahoma -- The bitter cold temperatures are wreaking havoc on heating units across Tulsa. Repair crews are busy, and many homeowners hope they don't have big problems and costly repair bills.

There are a few things you can do to make sure your heater doesn't break down. As the temperature stays below freezing, heat and air technicians are working overtime.

"It's been extremely busy. It's been real tough getting around especially last week during the main storm," said Dave Spears of AirCo Service.

Spears says it's been non-stop over the past nine days. Thursday he was fixing the furnace at Carolyn Finch's home.

"It went off last week during the first snow storm, and we had it off for about four days and it just wasn't working," said homeowner Carolyn Finch.

Spears says the cold itself hasn't caused furnaces to break down. It's the buildup of snow that's behind the problem. It gathers and covers the flue pipes on the roofs which leads to a lack of ventilation.

He said homeowners need to make sure they sweep away the snow from those flues.

The pros say it's also important if you have a package unit - that's both an A/C and a heater that's outside and exposed to the elements - that needs to be clear of snow. So get all the snowdrifts off to get the most out of that unit.

"We've had to clear off quite a bit of units, clear snowdrifts off some roofs to get to the flue pipes and get them cleared away so we can actually vent the gases and bring air into the 90 percent furnaces and whatnot," said Dave Spears, AirCo Service.

Finch is hopeful her furnace will soon be back up and running. If not she'll just keep on improvising.

"Well, we've got little space heaters we've been putting on, and the fireplace and doing a lot of baking to keep the house warm - and that's how been keeping warm, said Carolyn Finch, homeowner.

Spears says it's very important to have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home. A broken furnace can easily allow the deadly gas to build up, and you might not know it until it's too late.