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Friday, 19 December 2014

Alarm saves Cumbrian family from deadly carbon monoxide gas

A family had an amazing escape after a blocked chimney flue began filling their home with deadly gas.

Carbon monoxide photo
Sara McManus and Ian Story, with twins Abigail and Phoebe

Ian Story and his partner Sara McManus grabbed their six-month-old twins, Abigail and Phoebe, and fled their home at Cummersdale on the outskirts of Carlisle in the middle of the night after a carbon monoxide alarm recorded rising levels of the silent gas.

The young couple are especially fortunate as they only received the gas detector three days earlier following a chance encounter with Ian’s godfather, former firefighter Richard Pape.

Ian, 27, a self-employed joiner, said: “I popped around to Richard’s house on Christmas Eve to drop his card off and he happened to be in.

“He is quite chatty and we got talking about different things and he mentioned carbon monoxide as it’s a storyline on Coronation Street at the moment – although I don’t watch it.”

Mr Pape works as a fire officer with the Cumbria Partnership NHS Trust, based at the Carleton Clinic, Carlisle, and regularly gives talks on the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Concerned, Mr Pape insisted on ordering a carbon monoxide alarm online for Ian and had it delivered to his godson’s house a few days later.

Sara, 21, said: “I tried to arrange a home fire safety visit when the girls were in the special care baby unit as I wanted smoke alarms but I kept missing their calls.

“I hadn’t even thought about carbon monoxide.”

Last Wednesday Ian got home from work and went to bed at about 8pm feeling unwell.

“I stayed up and pottered about,” Sara said. “As I was feeding the girls the reading on the carbon monoxide alarm was going gradually up.

“I put the girls to bed and it started beeping at me.”

Uncertain what to do she asked advice from friends before turning off all appliances in the house, shutting down the woodburning stove and opening the downstairs windows.

Sara then reset the gas detector and went to bed – fortunately taking it upstairs with her.

“About 10 minutes later it started beeping again, and the reading had doubled.”

Ian said: “That was it. We grabbed the girls and ran to my mum’s house who only lives over the road.”

Sara and the two girls were checked over in hospital the following day but given the all-clear.

A subsequent visit by a chimney sweep that afternoon revealed up to 1.5in of soot build-up all the way around the inside of the stove flue, which had prevented the gases from the fire escaping as usual. Instead, it had been silently filling their home.

“I think I have the best godfather there is,” Ian said.

Richard added: “This could have been a real tragedy – I’m just glad I bumped into Ian when I did. It potentially saved their lives.”

The couple have spoken of their lucky escape as they hope to raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide and the importance of buying an alarm.

Ian said: “You spend £35 a month on insurance you might never use but for £20 as a one-off the alarm is saving our lives every day.”

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