Incident Type: 
Carbon Monoxide
Monday, May 23, 2022 - 5:33pm
Monday, May 23, 2022 - 5:37pm
1000 block University Avenue
Madison, WI

A 128-unit apartment building was evacuated Monday evening upon the discovery of dangerous and potentially lethal levels of carbon monoxide at 1001 University Avenue.

MGE summoned the assistance of the Madison Fire Department after carbon monoxide (CO) readings of approximately 500 parts per million (ppm) were discovered on an upper floor. MGE also detected readings of over 250 ppm on other levels. The CO build-up was caused by a carpet cleaning service van that had been running for several hours just outside an exterior stairwell door.

Upon arrival, Engine Co. 1 and Ladder Co. 1 immediately set up a number of fans to begin ventilating the building, and they also teamed up to go door to door and evacuate all apartment units. Additional resources were brought in: Engine Co. 4 provided an additional fan, Medic 4 and Medic 2 responded to provide EMS assistance to anyone feeling ill, the MFD Hazardous Incident Team was asked to respond, and Command Car 31 took command of the incident.

Firefighters examined CO readings unit by unit and found that many residential apartments contained high levels of CO. What’s more, firefighters discovered that several occupants had taken down their CO detectors, removed the batteries, and discarded them into the hallway.

MFD and MGE methodically ventilated all apartments until readings of 0 ppm were achieved. Occupants were evacuated for approximately two hours while these operations were performed. Two people were assessed by paramedics for mild symptoms of CO poisoning but neither needed to be taken to the hospital.

Safety Reminders: Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that we cannot detect on our own. For this reason, all households must be equipped with working carbon monoxide detectors.

When your carbon monoxide detector sounds, it is a sign to get outside immediately and to dial 911.

Exposure to carbon monoxide over sustained periods of time can cause symptoms that are commonly mistaken for the flu and can cause confusion, sleepiness, disorientation, and even death.

Never ignore your carbon monoxide alarm, and check it regularly to make sure it is working properly.

- MFD response vehicles outside 1001 University Avenue
- A carbon monoxide detector found atop a fire extinguisher cabinet in the hallway, batteries removed

- A graph depicting carbon monoxide toxicity levels. Greater concentrations of CO lead to more severe symptoms over shorter periods of time.

Posted 05/24/2022 - 6:28pm

Cynthia Schuster (Public Information Officer)