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Charlotte Fire Department urges carbon monoxide alarms

The Charlotte Fire Department on Thursday emphasized the value of carbon monoxide alarms, following three deaths at a Boone hotel.

The department received a donation of 100 alarms from Lowe’s home improvement and First Alert.

“The tragedies in Boone really demonstrate the dangers of carbon monoxide,” Charlotte Fire Department Deputy Chief Rob Kinniburgh said in the Rockwell Park neighborhood in north Charlotte. “We often refer to carbon monoxide as the silent killer.”

The alarms will be distributed to low-income homeowners based on referrals from public-assistance agencies.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be released from any malfunctioning fuel-burning appliance. In Boone, the gas killed Washington state residents Daryl Jenkins, 73, and his wife, Shirley Mae Jenkins, 72, at the Best Western Plus Blue Ridge Plaza hotel on April 16.

Nearly two months later, in the same hotel room, the gas killed 11-year-old Jeffrey Williams of Rock Hill and left his mother, Jeannie, with serious injuries.

In January 2011, North Carolina amended its building code to require carbon monoxide alarms in new residential construction. The code also requires alarms be added to existing homes that undergo construction projects where a permit is pulled.

North Carolina is among 27 states that require carbon monoxide alarms in new homes.

In response to the Boone tragedies, North Carolina lawmakers crafted a proposal that would require hotels to install carbon monoxide detectors in every enclosed space with a fossil- fuel-burning heater, appliance or fireplace – and in every hotel room that shares a common wall, floor or ceiling with such spaces.

That bill passed the General Assembly on Thursday and will go into effect in October .

Darrell Williams, Jeffrey’s uncle, said earlier this week that the bill didn’t go far enough to protect guests. He cited South Carolina’s rule, which requires alarms in hotel rooms connected by ductwork or ventilation shafts to all spaces with fuel-burning appliances.

Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, who originally got the carbon monoxide provision added to a North Carolina regulatory bill, said Thursday’s passage was a good first step.

Kinniburgh said he would like to see legislation broadened to cover all places where people may sleep, including extended stay hotels, group homes, transitional housing and hospitals.

Kinniburgh said Charlotte has had a good track record with carbon monoxide incidents in the past three years.

The Fire Department received only one call for a carbon monoxide incident in a hotel and about 700 calls for carbon monoxide incidents overall.

Kinniburgh said he couldn’t recall a carbon monoxide death in the past three years in Charlotte.

Thereasea Elder, president of the Rockwell Park homeowners association, thanked the Fire Department for its efforts. Elder said the homeowners association has gone door to door to make sure neighbors have carbon monoxide alarms.

Charlotte Fire Department Capt. Rob Brisley said smoke alarms do not detect carbon monoxide and carbon monoxide alarms cannot detect smoke, so people need to have both devices in their homes.

Staff writer Gavin Off contributed.

Haggerty: 704-358-6180
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