Family, other tenants lucky to have survived carbon monoxide poisoning, fire chief says

An apartment building in East Central Spokane was evacuated Monday morning because of high carbon monoxide levels.

The apartment is near N. Magnolia St. and E. Sprague Ave.

Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said three people — two adults and one child — were taken to the hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning.

This notice was just put on the door outside this apartment complex. No one else is allowed to be inside for the time being. #Spokane

— Ariana Lake (@arianaKXLY) December 16, 2019

Residents had been using generators to heat their units because the apartment building’s power had been shut off days ago due to concerns of poor wiring and a threat of a fire, according to the Spokane Fire Dept.

The situation left the tenants without a method to heat their units. Fire officials said the residents used three generators that were placed on a roof near the unit’s windows to power portable space heaters and other electronic devices. Extension cords were run throughout the second floor to accommodate the needs of the tenants.

Fire officials said the exhaust from the generators vented back into the cracked windows, causing a rapidly increasing level of carbon monoxide to accumulate.

“The seriousness of this situation cannot be overstated. We were exceptionally fortunate that everyone survived this morning,” the fire department said in a release.

Schaeffer said anytime someone uses an alternative heating device, people have to make sure the exhaust is done correctly.

The scary situation Monday made worse by the pressures of an approaching holiday, according to father Aaron Tonn.

“This is what, two weeks before Christmas? And I’m having to find a new place to live basically,” Tonn said.

The tenant went on to claim that 4 Degrees Property Management is to blame. He said had the company done more to address old wiring before now, residents wouldn’t have had to resort to this.

4 Degrees manages the upper level of the property where the apartments are. The company’s owner, Jordan Tamplen, said the agency didn’t expect people to return to the cold, powerless building before repairs were done.

Tamplen said when the company first found out about the power outage last week, they offered $100 per night for each unit displaced. Tonn said he spent far more than that to provide food and a hotel room for his family the last few days. That’s why he resorted to coming back to the powerless apartment.

“I’ve had one leg kicked out from me, just hopping around trying to make it by,” Tonn said. “Today was just the other one.”

Tamplen said starting Monday, the building’s owner will pay for hotel rooms for everyone displaced until they can return to their homes.

Chief Schaeffer said there were no carbon monoxide alarms in the apartments. Tamplen said his records showed each unit had the legally-required alarms. He noted that it is possible for tenants to disable or remove those alarms and the agency wouldn’t know if that happened until the apartment is vacated.

Templen said 4 Degrees is concerned for the well-being of the tenants and hopes everyone is okay.

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