Carbon monoxide leak forces evacuations at senior living center - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Carbon monoxide leak forces evacuations at senior living center

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SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) —  Dozens of elderly residents were evacuated from a skilled care facility on Wednesday because of toxic fumes. 

A natural gas leak was reported just before 11 a.m. at the facility on Meadow Lark Drive. 

 From the air, Chopper 8 showed the evacuees outside the Life House Skilled Nursing Facility. 

Many were in wheelchairs and on beds that were rolled outside once an employee smelled gas.  

"When the troops went in initially, there were readings of '10' on our monitor, which is a high carbon monoxide reading," said San Diego Fire Department Battalion Chief Mike McBride. 

Although carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas, it can often be mixed with other gases that do have a smell.  

Large amounts of it can overcome you and kill you.   

Firefighters credit the staff for acting quickly. 

"The toxicity happens above that, but we start moving people out of the environment at '10' and try to work that down with ventilation," said McBride. 

Once relatives heard about evacuations they quickly arrived to see if their loved ones were OK.    

"I was very concerned because my brother is in the back area of the facility and he can't even get on the wheel chair," said Isabel McGehee.  

The Lifehouse facility says they are prepared for situations like this. 

"We practice these things, we do drills - even last month we did a drill where we practiced, so the staff knew exactly what to do," said Life House administrator Toby Tilford. ""We're happy to report... everybody is in good health" 

Firefighters blame contractors for the toxic gas.  

"The contractor had inadvertently covered sewer pipe vents on the roof with Visqueen [polyethylene plastic sheeting] and also central HVAC units and that was causing the gas to be re-circulated into the building," said McBride.  

Once the contractor and firefighters removed the Visqueen the air returned to normal and residents were allowed back in.  

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