Inspector discovers carbon monoxide leak, saves children
When Johnny Vollendroff arrived at the rental property that day in 1996, he thought he was checking out a simple code complaint. Little did he know how important that visit would be. While the man of the house showed him around the place, John noted multiple code violations. The electric panel was incorrectly placed and missing its door. The lighting consisted of a single loop of exposed wiring hanging from the ceiling. The toilet was leaking through the bathroom wall into a kitchen cabinet, where a variety of molds grew. The windows were all single pane plastic. But, upon entering the living room, he saw the scariest thing. A gas fired heater sat in the spot where a wood stove must have been. The flue in the wall was open. The stove was exhausting directly in to the room. Beside it was a 50-gallon propane tank.
Johnny noticed that as they walked around the house, the gentleman had coughed frequently. Johnny now turned and asked him about his cold. The man replied that he wasn’t nearly as sick as his wife and kids. The family had all gotten the flu a few weeks before and it just wouldn’t go away. He described the symptoms, including blood shot eyes and a runny nose. Johnny explained to the man that these were all signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. They bundled the family into the gentleman’s car and drove to the health department.
The attending doctor later described the children as having the worst cases of carbon monoxide poisoning he had ever seen that had not resulted in death. That unconnected flue in the wall may have let enough fresh air into the living room to keep them alive. However, they would not have lasted much longer. The family moved out of the rental house immediately and Johnny condemned the property. He knew that his efforts had saved those children’s lives.
Story submitted by
Johnny Lee Vollendroff
Building Inspector/Code Official