Strip mall evacuated after several people become ill from elevated carbon monoxide

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Strip shopping center evacuated Friday for fumes. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

MANCHESTER, NH – First-responders were dispatched to the strip mall at 1525 South Willow St. Friday morning for a report of people with symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure and high levels of CO.

An initial call came from an employee of the dental office in the plaza indicating that their Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarm was sounding. Fire crews arrived and monitored the office for CO. There was a presence of 85 ppm so crews evacuated all employees and staff from the dental office. Adjacent businesses were checked; they revealed the following readings of CO.

  • U.S. Army Recruiting Office (Unit #6)      100 ppm
  • Dental & Dentures  (Unit #5)                       85 ppm
  • Vacant  (Unit #4)
  • Suley’s Soccer Center (Unit #3)                  20 ppm
  • Beautiful Nails  (Unit #2)                               13 ppm
  • Lots For Tots   (Unit #1)                                  8 ppm
  • Chuck E Cheese’s                                           0 ppm

All of the units with any CO present were evacuated. Fire/EMS crews evaluated 10 people who had exhibited symptoms of CO exposure. All were evaluated on the scene and none were transported. Fire crews were able to determine the source of the CO. This was from a rooftop HVAC unit which was disabled. The building owner’s representative was on scene and he summoned his HVAC company to repair the unit in question.

The only business that had CO alarms was the dental office. People in adjacent businesses were unaware of the presence of CO until fire crews entered their store.

“I encourage all homeowners and business owners to install CO detectors in their home or office. Over 500 people die annually in the USA from unexpected exposure to CO,” Gamache said.

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a colorless, odorless, toxic gas that is produced by devices that burn fuels. Therefore, any fuel-burning appliance in your home is a potential CO source. Symptoms of CO are similar to the flu (but without the fever).

Seven businesses in the mall are now without heat, but they are now safe to reoccupy the building.