Helena, MT – Five people including four guests of Jorgenson’s Inn & Suites were transported to St. Peter’s Health for carbon monoxide exposure late Thursday night, after a leak was found emanating from the hotel’s pool heater.
Helena Fire Department responded to the call around 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Fire Marshal Lou Antonick said the responding firefighters “had a hunch” the incident involved carbon monoxide.
“They started to realize right away what they were seeing,” Antonick said, adding that carbon monoxide-related incidents are a regular occurrence in the area as people use fuel-burning appliances.
The hotel guests’ flu-like symptoms, flushed skin and lethargy tipped off firefighters almost immediately. Five individuals were treated at St. Peter’s Health and released Friday afternoon, according to hospital spokeswoman Katie Gallagher. Gallagher declined to release the names of the patients per hospital policy.
“The guests went to the restaurant and had pie and coffee while we waited,” Bowers said.
Firefighters searched not only Jorgenson’s but also the adjacent apartment complex connected to the hotel via the parking garage and pool areas.
“We did not find any carbon monoxide detection in place,” he said. “That’s not to say they didn’t have one, but we did not find any to my knowledge.”
Bowers confirmed the business was warned about the infraction during last year’s fire inspection. She said the business then purchased the wall outlet plug-in style carbon detection devices in the hallways near the elevators, but that they had since been stolen. She said the devices’ disappearances went unnoticed until yesterday’s incident.
Helena’s Director of Community Development Sharon Haugen said in an email Friday that she “did not find any records of previous carbon monoxide complaints in the building file.”
The Helena Fire Department issued a news release Friday detailing the incident.
“At the present time, the cause of the incident appears to be an issue with ventilation of the exhaust from the gas fired pool heater,” the news release states. “That heaters and the gas feeding them have been shut off until repairs can be made.”