February 9, 2013

Pet store animals safe after carbon monoxide buildup evacuates Augusta's Turnpike Mall

No one was injured, and all the pets inside Petco — about 50, including a chameleon, reptiles, ferrets and others — were safe

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer


click image to enlarge

Augusta's ladder truck sits in front of Turnpike Mall, off Whitten Road in Augusta, as an Augusta Fuel Co. technician climbs onto the roof to check the heating system, around 3:20 p.m. on Saturday. The fire department responded to call about high carbon monoxide levels in the building.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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AUGUSTA — Carbon monoxide buildup, apparently caused by a blocked roof vent pipe, brought city firefighters to the Turnpike Mall this afternoon.

No one was injured, and all the pets inside Petco — about 50, including a chameleon, reptiles, ferrets and others — were safe, if temporarily chilly because the doors were opened for to allow fresh air inside.

Derek Allee, who works for Taurus Management Services LLC, called the fire department after a worker at Olympia Sports reported an unusual odor.

Augusta Fire Department Battalion Chief Daniel Guimond said a carbon monoxide reader measured 62 parts per million when he entered the common area at the mall, almost double the 35 parts per million where prolonged exposure can be lethal. 

He ordered doors opened and went inside Petco, where he found elevated levels as well.

Firefighters then turned their attention to the roof-mounted propane heaters.

“One of the vents was completely covered over with snow,” he said.

Firefighters shoveled off the snow. With the vent cleared, the doors open and fire department fans operating, the carbon monoxide dissipated quickly.

A furnace repair service was called as well, and the worker said a mechanical problem might have contributed to the carbon monoxide buildup.

The carbon monoxide alarm was called in about 2 p.m. when the clothing store was closing because of the snowstorm. 

Firefighters were gone by 4 p.m., when Darlene LaValley, Petco general manager, said she would return to feeding all the animals, who were fine.

Augusta Fire Chief Roger Audette had issued a warning earlier Saturday that heavy, drifting snow could cover the vents, raising a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

People using direct-vent heating devices should ensure the vents are clear of snow so they can function properly, he said.

He said recommended that checking the vents as a precaution for people using heating devices that are vented through a wall, for instance, rather than up a chimney.

Audette also reminded people to ensure that vehicle tailpipes weren’t clogged with snow. 

According to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 500 people die annually in the United States from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Information about prevention is available at www.cdc.gov/Features/COpoisoning/.

Betty Adams — 621-5631


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