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With no carbon monoxide detector a family of four dead

Four members of Pocatello family found dead in home. I read these words two days ago and I have not been able to get them out of mind. The story of this family who all died due to carbon monoxide poisoning hits home. This family could have been us.

What is on your list today? Buy a carbon monoxide detector.
Image: Personal Photo

It has been over 4 years. February 6, 2010 was a beautiful day so my family and I headed to Seattle to hang out at the waterfront to do some shopping and have some fun! That evening when we came home we placed the children in bed and snuggled on the coach to watch a movie. Chad and I were enjoying our movie time until I began to smell smoke. It was a wood burning smell but it was quite strong. I went around the house and checked everything out and found nothing. We concluded that our downstairs neighbor must have been burning some of the freshly cut trees that they were cutting that week. We continued to watch our movie. A half hour went by and I started to feel like something was wrong, the smell got worse and I noticed near the small dim light in the room that it was a little hazy. I did not know if that was normal since we were sitting in the room watching TV and my eyes were not well adjusted. I walked around the house and realized that the smell of smoke was the worst around my babies room and down the hall. Yet there was nothing that appeared to be wrong. I told Chad that we should call the non emergency fire department and let them know what we were experiencing. They suggested we call 911 and have someone come take a look. The fire department arrived within minutes, however my family and I evacuated the house before they came due to the overwhelming sickness feeling I had and the smell was getting worse by the moment. The fireman stated that our neighbor defiantly had a fire in the chimney but we should not have that smell that strong in the house. The second fireman came out and let us know our house was full of smoke (what we could not see in the dark)!

They went downstairs to see what was going on, time passed and an ambulance pulled up. The firemen stated that the fire chief was on his way to check on the patient and then check us out. We had no idea what was going on. My families Co2 level was zero and I had a little bit of an issue with my lungs. While we waited for an update the boys enjoyed that we all got to hang out in the fire truck. Every little boys dream! Chad enjoyed it too!

The fire Chief came to the door and asked to speak to Chad. When Chad returned he filled me in on what was happening. This is the moment that changed everything. Our neighbor who is a struggling recovering alcoholic got drunk, started a fire, closed the damper (on purpose) and went to sleep on the couch. We were told that her intention was to not wake up.

May 2009, the night before I gave birth to Lily, our downstairs neighbor started dinner, drank herself to sleep and forgot about her food. This began a small fire. Our smoke detector beeped a little however hers did not go off. It did not go off because she did not have one! I made it very clear to our landlords that they needed to place one in there and they agreed.

Well guess what the fireman told us? That since there was NO SMOKE DETECTOR in the house down stairs, if ours went off it would have been too late for us. If Chad and I were sleeping instead of staying up way past our bedtime watching a movie none of us would have woken up. The Co2 would have killed us before the smoke detector would have alarmed us to wake.


After I was informed of this I saw them take her into the ambulance. She survived, she survived because we were awake, she survived because we called 911. She was struggling with the paramedics she did not want assistance. The ambulance was parked across the street from the firetruck. From the window of the truck I could see her in the ambulance. My mind was racing. My mind was full of emotions. I wanted to run over there and shake her and yell at her yet at the same time I wanted to hold her and pray for her. But I could not move I sat in the firetruck stared out the window and quietly prayed.

We stayed at a friends house right down the street that night. We went home the next day and it smelled like a enormous campfire had been lit in the center of our home. It was cold. Not just the temperature. The house that we had lived in since we moved to Gig Harbor, our first place together as Mr and Mrs Cullip, the house that we brought our child home from the hospital after she was born, this house didn't feel like home anymore. At this point Chad and I knew that we needed to change our address soon. We began calling around and figured that we would have a few weeks and things would be okay since our neighbor would be out for awhile. We were wrong, late that night a car pulled up downstairs and it was our landlords dropping off their daughter. They dropped her off and left her there alone. No assistance no support. Not to mention they did not even come talk to us about what happened. I felt violated I felt unsafe I felt like I needed to run. I maintained my composure long enough to get the children to bed. Once that task was completed my oldest came out of his room to tell me the worst things that I ever heard come from his mouth. ” mommy I am scared, I cannot go to sleep, what if she does it again?” I knew at that moment we didn't have weeks to look for a place. Mother Bear kicked in and we found a place, packed up the house and moved the following weekend.

The leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in North America, Carbon Monoxide (CO) is odorless, tasteless and invisible – it’s a silent killer. The only safe way to know if carbon monoxide is present is to install carbon monoxide detectors (alarms) on every level of your home and in sleeping areas.Do you have one?

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