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The death of four members of an El Mirage family over the New Year’s weekend is a reminder of how deadly carbon monoxide poisoning can be and why fire offi­cials are quick to remind residents of those dangers.

The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office reported that on Monday, Jan. 1, deputies responded to a residence in Parks, between Flagstaff and Williams, for a welfare check and discovered the deceased bodies of two adults and two young children.

The Ponderosa Fire Department identified the victims as Anthony Capitano, 32, Megan Capitano, 32, Lincoln Capitano, 4, and Kingsli, 3.

Photo courtesy of the Ponderosa Fire Department

Ponderosa Fire Department crews were dispatched Monday, Jan. 1, at 1:48 p.m. to a cabin in Parks, between Williams and Flagstaff, for a welfare check. Upon arrival, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office informed crews that their was a strong, unknown gas coming from the cabin. Using their self-contained breathing apparatus masks, crews searched the residence and found four deceased people, identified as 32-year old Tony Capitano, 32-year old Megan Capitano, 4-year old Lincoln Capitano and 3-year old Kingsli Capitano. The CCSO is investigating this as a possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office will be conducting further investigation, but CCSO is investigating the inci­dent as possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Carbon monoxide is a very big concern for us,” Sedona Fire District Fire Marshal Jon Davis said. “As the weather cools and furnaces get used more often, improper venting or a furnace that is not burning properly can exhaust carbon monoxide into your home.

“Additionally, some people with older furnaces that can’t keep up, or people that have had their utili­ties turned off may attempt to use portable fuel-burning appliances inside their house. These portable fuel-burning appliances are never safe to use in an enclosed space.”

The only sure way to detect carbon monoxide is by the use of a properly installed and working carbon monoxide detector, he said. Those who have fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces or wood stoves, or an attached garage, need a carbon monoxide detector in their homes.

Signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision and loss of consciousness.

The tragedy over the weekend almost played out in Sedona. In November 2016, a family of eight — ranging in age from 8 to 79 — was transported to the hospital following exposure to carbon monoxide. A gas monitor was brought into the home and high levels of CO were discovered throughout, with the highest amount registering near the furnace and adjacent bedrooms.

“There have been numerous cases, elsewhere, where an entire household has been found deceased from CO exposure while they slept,” SFD Fire Inspector Rick Evans said at the time of that incident in Sedona. “I am relieved that this wasn’t the case today.”

The installation of a carbon monoxide alarm could have provided early warning to the occupants of the home, Evans said. The International Fire Code requires the retroactive installation and maintenance of CO alarms in any living space that has fuel burning appliances or an attached garage.

The International Fire Code states the following:

  • Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can kill.

  • CO is found in fumes produced any time fuel is burned in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges or furnaces.

  • The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. CO symptoms are often described as flu-like.

  • Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Infants, the elderly and people with chronic heart disease, anemia or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from CO. Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.

How can you prevent CO poisoning in your home?

  • Install a CO alarm in your home. Place your alarm near sleeping areas. Consider buying an alarm with a digital readout that can tell you the highest level of CO concentration in your home.

  • Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year. Chimneys can be blocked by debris.

  • Never use a gas range or oven for heating.

  • Never burn charcoal or use portable gas camp stoves or a generator inside your home.

Contact Sedona Fire District at 282-6800 with any questions you have regarding carbon monoxide or any other fire safety related topic.

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