Quick follow-up by hospital staff tending to one woman who had passed out led to the rescue of four other people, Modesto officials said.
Firefighters rescued four people inside a Modesto home early Tuesday after hospital staff alerted them that a woman brought in earlier had symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Officials say the residents could have died if hospital staff and dispatchers had not followed up on the earlier incident.
"Given a few more hours, it definitely could've been tragic," said Modesto Fire Division Chief Tim Tietjen.
The incident began about 4 a.m., when Modesto firefighters responded to a call for medical assistance for a woman at a home in the 900 block of Tokay Avenue, several blocks east of McHenry Avenue. Tietjen said the woman exhibited signs of an altered level of consciousness.
Jeff Eisenhauer said they called medics to help his 23-year-old daughter, Jessica Eisenhauer, who has diabetes. They thought her symptoms early Tuesday had something to do with her diabetes. The father said they had no idea something in the house could be causing her to feel ill.
Firefighters arrived at the home and helped American Medical Response medics get the woman onto a gurney and into an ambulance for a trip to a local hospital.
Tietjen said there was no indication at the time that the woman or anyone else inside the house was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning or that a portable generator was being used.
About 5:10 a.m., fire officials received a call from a dispatcher relaying information from hospital staff that the woman hospitalized about an hour earlier was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. Tietjen said the woman told hospital staff that there were others still at the home.
Firefighters went back to the Tokay Avenue house to check on the other residents. The firefighters knocked on the home's door but could not get anyone to answer. Modesto police were called to assist. Tietjen said the firefighters found the front door was unlocked and opened it.
A fire captain in the doorway spotted a person who was unresponsive. Tietjen said firefighters near the front door had a portable carbon monoxide monitor, and the device's alarm started ringing.
Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and tasteless. But the firefighters could smell exhaust coming from a motor, which turned out to be coming from a portable generator.
The firefighters put on their breathing apparatus and went inside to pull out the four residents, who each had signs of an altered level of consciousness. Two ambulances were called to take the patients to a hospital.
Eisenhauer was sleeping in a bedroom at the home, when firefighters rescued him early Tuesday. He said he didn't know he was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.
"They just woke me up, brought me out here and starting giving me oxygen," Eisenhauer said Tuesday afternoon standing on the Tokay Avenue home's front porch.
He said he and the three others rescued were released from the hospital a few hours later. He said they all seem to be doing fine, except for his daughter, who was being treated at a Fresno hospital. He was still waiting to hear more about her condition.
The source of the carbon monoxide was the portable generator the residents were using to provide electricity, according to fire officials. The generator was found running in a crawl space under the home.
Tietjen said the residents had been without electricity for a few days, but it was unclear why. It also was unclear what the generator was powering in the home overnight.
Jerry Hutson said he rents the house and has lived there since November. He was not there when the four others were rescued. He and Eisenhauer believe the carbon monoxide from the generator drifted into the house through an open window.
Hutson said they stopped paying their electricity bill a few weeks ago and started using the generator, because it's more affordable for them. He said the generator was powering ceiling fans overnight to keep the house cool while they slept.