A blocked chimney flue was the cause of the carbon monoxide poisoning of four children in Troy, a fire official said Monday.
Three of the four children died, and the fourth remains hospitalized.
“It was a catastrophic failure of a flue pipe,” said Matthew Simmons, assistant Troy fire chief.
The chimney flue, which was connected to the furnace, failed to vent carbon monoxide gases that killed three children and left one in critical condition.
Troy Fire Department arrived at 114 S. Elm St. on Friday and found law enforcement and other first responders already on the scene performing CPR.
It was reported that the children hadn’t been feeling well the last few days, but Simmons said firefighters knew there was something more to it than just ill children and moved them onto the porch outside.
“Carbon monoxide is odorless and you can’t see it, but there were indications in the house itself that our guys recognized was a carbon monoxide incident,” Simmons said.
A buildup of soot that “didn’t just happen in a few days” covered the walls and ceiling, Simmons said.
The four children were found unresponsive, and all of them ended up in cardiac arrest, he said.
Sisters Dionanna Bishop, 14, and Dejah Bishop, 13, died Friday in Troy from carbon monoxide poisoning. Levels of the gas were very high, said Miami County Coroner William Ginn.
Their cousin, Jakia Jones, 13, died Sunday. Her brother, Jahari Ward, 8, remained in critical condition at Children’s Hospital but according to his uncle, Leon Bishop, he opened his eyes, wiggled his toes and smiled Monday.
Every year, an average of 430 people die of carbon monoxide poisoning accidents nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
In Ohio, the number of accidental carbon monoxide deaths has bounced around between 16 and 28 a year since 2007, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
The sad part, officials said, is these deaths are preventable.
Carbon monoxide gas is a byproduct of incomplete combustion, said Chief Frank Conway of the Division of State Fire Marshal, so it can come from any household appliance that burns fuel.
“Household gas fuel furnaces, gas water heaters, gas fireplaces, gas stoves, are all sources of carbon monoxide,” said Conway, who is the Ohio fire prevention bureau chief.
Another source of danger, especially during weather events, he said, are generators.
“We’re talking today about the potential of some ice coming in and with that kind of weather, power outages,” Conway said. “And we want to caution people, we don’t want them bringing generators into the garage area as a power source, because now that’s a source of carbon monoxide.”
Carbon monoxide detectors can prevent death and injury from the gas, he said.
“Preferably put one on each floor, especially outside the sleeping area in the hallway,” Conway said.
If a home does not have a detector for the gas, other telltale signs are possible.
“Symptoms are very similar to those of the flu: headache, dizziness and weakness,” he said. “A key sign is while they’re at home they have these symptoms, but when they leave the house, the symptoms seem to go away.”
If that happens, Conway said, be suspicious that something may be going on in your house.
“If you have that suspicion, fire departments can come out and do a carbon monoxide check,” he said.
The lifespan on the carbon monoxide detector is eight years, Conway said. And like smoke detectors, the carbon monoxide detectors have to be kept in good working order.
“Make sure … that batteries are changed at least yearly. Or when you change your clocks, change your batteries,” Conway said.
The Troy Fire Department and the City of Troy have joined forces with community service organizations, the Lincoln Center and Partners in Hope, to ensure residents are protected.
The citywide effort will begin distributing carbon monoxide detectors Wednesday at locations including Partners in Hope at 116 West Franklin Street, Troy.
“We already started calling our partner families and seniors we work with,” Jessica Echols, Partners in Hope director, said.
The community is reaching out as well. Numerous people have called asking what they can do to help, Echols said.
True Value Hardware in Troy has offered to donate a carbon monoxide detector for every one that is purchased at the store.
“We really just want to learn from this and really try to educate the community,” Simmons said.