Near deaths from CO poisoning prompt formation of new task force |

Near deaths from CO poisoning prompt formation of new task force

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A recent death and near deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning in Routt County has shocked the real estate industry into action.

Joan Conroy of Steamboat Sotheby’s International Realty had a client living in the Waterside Village Condos in Steamboat Springs when an elderly woman accidentally left her car running in an attached garage in January. Conroy’s client and other condo owners had CO detectors, which alerted emergency responders to the danger. Though the woman passed out from CO poisoning, she did survive.

This First Alert carbon monoxide detector warns homeowners of CO gas leaks, which can be deadly.

Then in May, a similar attached garage incident near Oak Creek took the life of Jack Romick while he slept. His wife, Janie, survived. Like the January incident, the car had a push button start that didn’t require drivers to turn a key.

The CO accidents shook Conroy to the core, reminding her of a popular Steamboat couple, Del and Dora Scott, who lost their lives in 1984 from CO poisoning.

“We live in a small town, and I know four people who have been affected by carbon monoxide poisoning. Three have died and one lived. That’s unacceptable,” Conroy said.

Conroy and Steamboat Sotheby’s Director of Marketing Traci Smith quickly got to work on creating the Carbon Monoxide Risk Prevention Task Force that includes a wide range of collaborators, including fire and rescue, police, gas companies and the real estate community.

“CO deaths are 100 percent preventable,” Smith said. “Most people don’t have a carbon monoxide detector, so we’re going to try and get them into the hands of as many people as we can.”

At a glance

Carbon Monoxide Risk Prevention Task Force reminders

• Carbon monoxide is produced by burning gasoline, wood, charcoal, propane, natural gas and any other fuel.

• Household appliances, such as gas fires, boilers, central heating systems, water heaters, cookers and open fires that use gas, oil, charcoal, coal and wood are sources of CO gas.

• Leaving a car in a closed garage with its engine running can produce deadly amounts of CO within 10 minutes.

• Blocked flues and chimneys can stop CO from escaping.

• Fumes from certain paint removers and cleaning fluids can cause CO poisoning.

While the task force is relatively new, Smith and Conroy hope to get door hangers with pertinent CO information on every door in Routt County. They’ll also be speaking to fellow realtors at their next Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors meeting Sept. 11 to help get the word out about the new program. They’re also creating cards with CO dangers that can easily be distributed to the community.

“There’s a common misconception that if you don’t have a gas appliance, you’re safe,” Smith said. “Every single person in Routt County has something that is burning some sort of fuel in or around their home, and even if you don’t have it in your home, it can permeate through walls.”

Rental homes and homes that are currently for sale are required by law to have working CO detectors, but it’s always up to homeowners to take care of themselves.

“My goal is to have a CO detector in every house, duplex, trailer … I want to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Conroy said.

Ace Hardware also has volunteered to help subsidize the cost of CO detectors for people who can’t afford them.

Anyone interested in learning more about the CO task force can email Smith at

Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today

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