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1 CAL FIRE FF hospitalized, 15 evaluated for potential CO poisoning

The firefighters were on break between battling the Glass Fire and officials say exposure couldn’t have happened at base camp or on the fireground

Kerry Benefield
The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. — One firefighter was hospitalized and 15 evaluated for carbon monoxide poisoning Tuesday when they were potentially exposed to the lethal gas while on a rest break during the massive battle against the Glass fire.

The condition of the firefighter admitted to the hospital was not available Tuesday evening. The 15 other firefighters were examined at the Cal Fire base camp in Santa Rosa and released back to duty on the fire lines, Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean said.

Officials did not disclose the location of the potential exposure but said it occurred away from the base camp at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds and did not occur while they were actively fighting fire. The firefighters, who were working 24-hour shifts, were on a 24-hour rest period when they were stricken during their break but were not in their sleeping quarters, McLean said.

“It was their down time,” he said.

Cal Fire has not released information on what the firefighters were doing when they fell ill or where they were. All were members of a Cal Fire strike team of engines, but McLean declined to release where they came from.

Ambulances lined up at the Brookwood Avenue entrance to the fairgrounds Tuesday morning in response to radio reports of a mass casualty incident. Medical crews examined the firefighters before they were transported in ambulances to a medical facility elsewhere at the base camp.

“We have medical staff on site, including doctors and nurses that are assigned to the incident, that are on this premises, and that is where they are doing those evaluations,” said Cal Fire spokesman Robert Foxworthy.

The investigation is ongoing, officials said.

More than 2,500 firefighters from across the state were battling the 10-day-old Glass fire on Tuesday. The blaze, which broke out Sept. 27 on the eastern rim of the Napa Valley, has destroyed more than 600 homes in Sonoma and Napa counties and threatened another 20,300 structures Tuesday evening even as firefighters surpassed the halfway point in their battle to build containment lines around the wildfire.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is produced any time a fossil fuel is burned, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It can cause sudden illness and death when inhaled.


©2020 The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.)