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Pa. fire chief pushes for CO legislation

By Kelly Monitz
Standard-Speaker

HAZLETON, Pa. — Hazleton Fire Chief Donald Leshko believes a carbon monoxide detector is just as important as smoke detectors in a home.

That’s why on on May 12 he traveled to Harrisburg for a press conference at which the Pennsylvania Safe Homes Coalition urged the adoption of legislation that would require carbon monoxide detectors in all homes statewide.

Leshko, a member of the coalition, along with other fire chiefs throughout the commonwealth, urged the passage of House Bill 1445, sponsored by state Rep. Timothy J. Solobay, D-48, of Washington County.

Carbon monoxide detectors are another tool that can save lives, because carbon monoxide is odorless, tasteless, colorless and deadly, he said.

Carbon monoxide can build up in a home when a furnace, a water heater or range hood malfunctions, when cars, generators or gas grills are operated in an attached garage, or come from a gas or wood-burning fireplace.

Most people don’t know they have a problem until they start feeling sick, often prompting them to go to the emergency room, Leshko said.

His department has received calls from the hospital asking them to check on homes after residents turn up with high levels of carbon monoxide in their system, he said.

Not everyone recognizes the symptoms, though.

One of the supporters of the bill is Meg Watt of Stroudsburg, whose 19-year-old brother and three of his friends died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a home they were renovating in Monroe County in 2008, Leshko said. A generator had been left running in the garage overnight, while the men slept. The home did not have a carbon monoxide detector.

Detectors have worked in Hazleton, Leshko said, recalling at least two occasions where homeowners were alerted. The residents actually thought the detectors needed fresh batteries, and when the machine beeped with new batteries, they called the fire department, he said.

In one home, a faulty furnace was to blame, and in the other, a coal burner, Leshko said.

Detectors cost about $35, but they are worth the effort, he said.

“It’s another tool to keep people safe,” Leshko said.

In addition to supporting the legislation, Leshko wants to look at a law requiring detectors in home throughout Hazleton as well.

Philadelphia already has such a law in place, he said, and earlier this month it helped save the lives of 11 people, including three children. A generator running in the basement filled a home with carbon monoxide and the next-door neighbor’s detector sounded.

Copyright 2009
Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, Pennsylvania)

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