June 29, 2013

Child has close call with carbon monoxide after fire

Rachel Brown

— A Dalton woman and her 3-year-old child are expected to be OK after carbon monoxide poisoning nearly killed the little girl earlier this week and sent her mother to the hospital, officials said.

Dalton Fire Department Deputy Chief Gary Baggett said the two were inside a duplex at the corner of Cappes Street and Vernon Avenue when a fire started in the living room in a unit underneath theirs on Wednesday. No one was in that unit at the time, and the fire burned and smoldered until it consumed all the oxygen inside and created a dangerous level of carbon monoxide in the building, Baggett said.

He said the carbon monoxide — a colorless, odorless and potentially deadly gas — leaked into the upper unit, poisoning the woman and child. The occupant of the lower unit came home around 7:30 a.m., and the upper level residents noticed around that time their floor was hot and there was a small amount of soot in places, Baggett said.

They also noticed the 3-year-old was sick. She had red skin, was confused and was suffering from nausea and vomiting and kept wanting to go to sleep, he said.

“The child was pretty near death,” he said. “They told me they kept having to shake her and keep her awake.”

They took her to Hamilton Medical Center and from there to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga where both the child and mother were treated and are expected to be OK.

The upstairs unit in the building had a working smoke detector, but the downstairs unit had a non-working device, Baggett said. Standard practice is to install carbon monoxide detectors in buildings where any of the appliances run on gas, but in this case, everything was electric.

Baggett said officials are working to learn what started the fire and have talked with a “person of interest” who was seen near the building. The Dalton Police Department is involved in the ongoing investigation.