WATERVILLE — Fire Chief David LaFountain is crediting two firefighters with saving the lives of two workers exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide Thursday at a local store.

A propane-powered floor scrubber being used by a subcontractor to strip floors in a closed break room at the new Tractor Supply store caused the levels to be at life-threatening levels, according to LaFountain.

Firefighters/inspectors Eion Pelletier and Lt. Shawn Esler had gone to the store at JFK Plaza off Kennedy Memorial Drive Thursday afternoon to do a routine follow-up inspection of the new business, he said. They rescued the man and woman subcontractors, who probably were moments from dying, LaFountain said.

“I don’t think it would have taken much longer,” LaFountain said. “Basically, I think people need to understand that if you’re working inside with anything that burns fuel, you have to ventilate and make sure you get plenty of air, because carbon monoxide — you can’t see it, you can’t smell it and it is deadly. That’s why they call it the ‘silent killer.'”

Tractor Supply store manager Dennis Bowman said Saturday that the subcontractors were OK and had returned to the construction company where they work. They were admitted Thursday to a local hospital and released around 8 p.m. that night, Bowman said. Like LaFountain, Bowman said it was fortunate the firefighters were doing the store inspection Thursday.

LaFountain is recommending the city honor Esler and Pelletier, a rescue technician.

“… We all feel that if not for the inquisitiveness, skill sets, and determination of these two inspectors, the two people working in the office would have perished due to inhalation of poisonous gas,” LaFountain wrote in an e-mail to City Manager Michael Roy. “I intend to construct letters of commendation for their actions.”

LaFountain said Saturday that the city’s code enforcement officer, Garth Collins, and Fire Department officials do inspections of new businesses to make sure they have no serious code violations.

Pelletier and Esler, who volunteer to do inspections, noticed a strong smell of exhaust Thursday inside Tractor Supply.

They saw a forklift in the building and decided to get a gas meter out of the rescue truck to check the air inside the facility, LaFountain said.

The carbon monoxide levels were 55 to 80 parts per million of carbon monoxide; 50 parts per million is the highest level allowed by Occupational Safety & Health Administration, he said.

“We don’t like anything above 35 parts per million,” he said.

Esler and Pelletier called LaFountain, who called an official at the state Department of Environmental Protection. While he was on the phone, Pelletier discovered the subcontractor using the propane powered scrubber in the break room.

“The levels of carbon monoxide in there were so high (1,466 parts per million) that the guy’s face was beet-red,” LaFountain said. “Eion said, ‘Are you feeling OK?’ and the man said, ‘Not really.’ Anything over 1,200 parts per million is considered by OSHA to be an immediate danger to life and health.”

They took the two subcontractors outside, called for rescue and Delta Ambulance, evacuated the store temporarily and ventilated the building, LaFountain said.

Fire Captain Rodney Alderman sent LaFountain an e-mail after the incident, also praising the firefighters.

“Chief, I think that Eion and Shawn should get an official commendation/recognition from the department for the saves today at Tractor Supply,” it says. “Had they not taken action, we could have had two bodies to recover rather than two patients to transport. They did a helluva job.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]


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