Sheriff's Office offers carbon-monoxide safety tips after multiple deaths, close calls during winter storm, power outages

 Clackamas Co. Sheriff's Office

Since a severe, multi-day winter storm hit Clackamas County starting Thursday afternoon (Feb. 11, 2021), many residents have been forced to make do without electricity. Long-term power outages combined with cold temperatures led many residents to seek alternate heating sources -- which led to several hazardous incidents involving carbon-monoxide poisoning.

Since the storm and outages began, Clackamas County emergency personnel have responded to several close calls -- and multiple deaths -- linked to carbon monoxide (CO).

Limited information is currently available on these cases -- the Clackamas County Medical Examiner's Office is still investigating, and in some cases the families of those involved have asked for privacy.

However, the Sheriff's Office can confirm that from Saturday-Monday, Feb. 13-15, there were three incidents of suspected carbon-monoxide poisoning resulting in death within Clackamas County. All three incidents involved adults.

The fatal calls:

  • On Saturday, Feb. 13, a single adult appears to have ignited charcoal briquettes inside a small, enclosed area, leading to death by CO poisoning. This case is still under investigation.
  • On Sunday, Feb. 14, a male adult was alone with his dog inside his RV, without electricity. The propane heating source designed for use inside the RV appears to have had a malfunction. The RV was equipped with a carbon-monoxide detector, which was sounding, alerting a neighbor. The neighbor who heard the alarm checked on the subject, finding him unconscious. The unconscious man was transported to an area hospital, and ultimately died from what is suspected to be carbon-monoxide poisoning. The subject's dog was found deceased, as well. This case is still under investigation.
  • On Monday, Feb. 15, two adults who'd lost power to their home were inside their recreational vehicle (RV), using a propane heating source designed for heating the RV. The heating source appeared to not be functioning properly -- resulting in the suspected carbon-monoxide poisoning and death of both adults. This case is still under investigation.

In addition to these calls, the Sheriff's Office and other emergency personnel have responded to several other CO-poisoning "close calls" that required medical care. C-COM dispatchers received at least 18 separate calls regarding CO poisoning between Friday, Feb. 12 and Tuesday, Feb. 16. (This includes one mutual aid request to Marion County.)

Among these close calls:

  • On Saturday, Feb. 13, a family of six had brought a charcoal BBQ inside their home to use as a heat source. Emergency crews responded and treated two family members on scene for carbon-monoxide poisoning, and transported the other four family members to the hospital for treatment.
  • On Tuesday, Feb 16, a total of six adults in a Gladstone home were using a gas generator for power. The generator was located inside a shed attached to the home. One resident woke up in the morning smelling fumes. Emergency crews were summoned. Four adults were able to make it out of the residence -- some with assistance from responding officers. When firefighters arrived, they donned their equipment and entered the house -- pulling two additional adults out of the home who were unconscious. Emergency crews began CPR and transported four to the hospital. The other two adults were treated on scene and declined transportation to the hospital. (Photos from this call are attached.)

The Sheriff's Office reminds the public to never use alternate heating sources indoors that produce carbon monoxide -- including BBQs, campstoves or cooktops -- inside homes, trailers and other enclosed spaces. Also: Do NOT use generators inside your home.

Additionally, the Sheriff's Office recommends the installation of carbon-monoxide detectors inside the home and other enclosed spaces, including trailers.

Some emergency cooking tips from FEMA can be found in their Citizen Preparedness handbook here:

FEMA also provides the following safety tips on the emergency use of generators:

Carbon-monoxide safety tips from FEMA:

Fact sheets are also attached to this release.


'Storm Resources' webpage:

List of Clackamas County warming centers:

Clackamas County winter-storm emergency declaration: