(NEW ROCHELLE, NY) -- Firefighters responding to a report of carbon monoxide at a home located at 867 Weaver Street in New Rochelle on Friday encountered dangerously high levels of the poison gas throughout the inside of a house. An effort to locate the source of the carbon monoxide led to the discovery several illegal apartments inside the single-family home along with an illegal boiler, a blocked flue system and various illegal appliances hooked up throughout the house.
The New Rochelle Fire Department called the city building inspector and Con Edison to the scene. The illegal boilers and stoves were "red-tagged" and capped. A warning “RED” Tagis is displayed on any gas pipe, appliance or meter on which is indicated the reason for discontinuance of gas service by Con Edison
Jodi Bonijove, the resident who called the New Rochelle Fire Department on Saturday morning, had reportedly just installed a new carbon monoxide detector when it began to beep, indicating high levels of CO gas in her attic apartment. The International Association of Fire Chiefs' is currently running a promotion, Change Your Clock Change Your Batteries campaign, to encourage people to check smoke detectors and CO detectors.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas, sometimes called “"he silent killer." The IAFC estimates that 500 people die each year in the United States from unintentional non-fire carbon monoxide poisoning. Deaths, they say, which could have been easily avoided by installing a CO detector in the home.
“It was a very dangerous situation,” said Fire Commissioner Kiernan. “Over a period of time - as the cold weather set in - it would have been much more dire. People could have been sickened and at worse, died.”
The house at 867 Weaver Street is located near the site of the old Cherry Lawn Golf Range, to the right as a car would turn down off Weaver Street, down the drive way towards the golf range parking lot. The golf range is now a major new housing development.
The owner of the house is listed as John Derafalle, a well-known builder in New Rochelle. The house has a STAR exemption which indicates the house is his primary residence.
Paul Vacca, head of the Building Bureau, responded to the scene at late Friday evening after a call from the Deputy Fire Chief. Vacca determined the house had been cut up into illegal apartments on the second and third floor and possibly the basement as well. The inspection was incomplete because some of the rooms were locked. Vacca returned to the scene on Saturday.
City Manager Chuck Strome told Talk of the Sound, the City will be writing up Court Appearance Tickets in the coming days which will be served to Mr. Derafalle.
The CO levels in the house were extremely high. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "average levels in homes without gas stoves vary from 0.5 to 5 parts per million (ppm). Levels near properly adjusted gas stoves are often 5 to 15 ppm and those near poorly adjusted stoves may be 30 ppm or higher. The OSHA standard for workers is no more than 50 ppm for 1 hour of exposure. NIOSH recommends no more than 35 ppm for 1 hour. The U.S. National Ambient Air Quality Standards for CO (established in 1985) are 9 ppm for 8 hours and 35 ppm for 1 hour. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends levels not to exceed 15 ppm for 1 hour or 25 ppm for 8 hours."
The readings in the house at the time of inspection was 100 ppm on the first, second and third floor and in the basement. Two reading taken directly from two of the appliances in the house gave readings of 345 ppm and 1,000 ppm. Many times over the acceptable level.
According to a report by the New Rochelle Fire Department, an on-demand hot water heater in the basement was identified as the possible source. The water heater was not installed properly where the flue pipe was covered by vinyl siding letting the carbon monoxide infiltrate the whole house.
Firefighters shut down the water heater and ventilated the whole house, the report continues. "The readings dropped dramatically down to 65 then to 35 and then to 10 then down to 0 ppm. Con Edison was then called to the scene and took readings with their gas meter." A Con Edison worker "red tagged" and capped the water heater. The owner was asked to turn on the oil fired burner. There were no readings. Con Edison took readings of the first floor stove. It read 345 ppm and was red-tagged. A gar-fired boiler on the 3rd floor/attic space gave a reading of 1,000 ppm. A Kidde CO alarm went off on the 3rd floor. A Night Hawk CO detector from 1999 did not go off in boiler room. The Fire Department recommends replacing CO detectors every 2-5 years.
John Derafalle was reached by telephone but declined to comment on the incident.