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Gas leak after heater vandalized

Washington Post Editors

A water heater that was vandalized spewed carbon monoxide into a Greenbelt area apartment building Thursday afternoon, and emergency responders took four people to a hospital for special treatment, authorities said.

Firefighters were tipped off to the presence of the potentially deadly gas in the 6100 block of Breezewood Court when a man in the apartment called 911 about 3:30 p.m. to report that his carbon monoxide alarm was going off, authorities said.

When they arrived, they detected carbon monoxide readings of 1,000 parts per million -- well above the reading of 35 parts per million that is considered the upper safe limit, authorities said.

Paramedics evaluated 11 people, including five children ranging from 3 months to 11 years old, who had been exposed to the gas, said Mark Brady, a spokesman for the Prince George's County Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department. Two men, a woman and an 8-year-old girl were eventually taken to a hospital for treatment in a hyperbaric chamber, although their exposure to the gas was not considered to be life-threatening, he said.

Brady said the gas was apparently produced and pumped into the apartment building by a hot water heater that had been vandalized. He said that vandalism of hot water heaters in the building has been a persistent problem and that fire investigators planned to inspect other buildings in the complex to determine whether any others might be unsafe.

-- Matt Zapotosky

By Washington Post Editors  |  July 2, 2010; 7:38 AM ET
Categories:  Matt Zapotosky , Pr. George's  
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