The Price Chopper on Route 9W in Glenmont was evacuated Wednesday morning (Aug. 17) after a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm registered dangerous levels at the back of the store. The Selkirk Fire Department responded and found the cause to be a blocked stove pipe in the bakery, which caused dangerous CO levels–particularly, according to Asst. Fire Chief Joe Michaniw, in the walk-in coolers used by employees.
“Inside some of the walk-in coolers, levels were over 200 parts per million (ppm),” he said, before explaining that most home alarms will trigger at 5ppm. “5ppm won’t kill you,” he said, “But it is dangerous if you’re in your third trimester. At 5ppm, it’s a warning and you should probably get out of your home.” Levels in open areas near the store bakery registered 50-70ppm, which Michaniw said is not deadly, but is certainly not recommended. Closer to the coolers, it was 150. “Basically the fans were sucking it out of the air and pulling it into the coolers and freezers.”
No one in the store reported any symptoms, such as nausea or dizziness, he said, and the store was completely evacuated while they investigated the source of the high CO levels. “We shut it down,” Michaniw said. “And, after searching, we found a stove in the bakery, with a stove pipe that vents through the roof. That stove pipe was rotted off and so the carbon monoxide was settling in the roof and then being pulled out by the force of the fans attached to the coolers. In those confined spaces, there was no way for the air to get out, so that’s where we saw the highest levels.”
National Grid and the Town of Bethlehem were notified and the natural gas line to the stove was cut off until it has been repaired and inspected. The store was ventilated and able to reopen around 10:15 a.m., a little less than two hours after Selkirk FD responded to the alarm around 8:30 a.m..
“Everything else in the store is operational, nothing was damaged,” said Michaniw, adding that positive and negative pressure fans were used to circulate the air and remove the CO in less than two hours. “There were no injuries. If one of the employees had gone into one of those coolers, though, and the door had shut behind them and they had become overwhelmed, they could have passed out in that cooler. You can’t smell carbon monoxide. There’s no way of knowing it’s there.”