Share story

MEDFORD, Ore. — Two months ago, while Sharon Lausmann rested following a medical procedure, carbon monoxide crept silently through her home.

The source, she learned later, was her oven, which she’d cracked open to vent a burning roast. Unbeknownst to her, the appliance had malfunctioned and was allowing the odorless, colorless gas to spread throughout her house.

Her carbon monoxide detector began to sound. Then she heard the phone ring and answered it. A representative from ADT Security was on the other end.

“We’re receiving a carbon monoxide alarm. Is everything OK?” Phyllis Clark asked on a recording of the call provided to the Mail Tribune.

“Carbon monoxide?” Lausmann asked.


“Oh, wow. Everything’s fine. I’m cooking. Would that make it go off?”

“That should not make it go off,” Clark said.

After some coaxing, Clark got Lausmann to agree to go outside with her pets, then called 911. Soon after, Medford Fire-Rescue arrived at Lausmann’s front door.

“I could have died from this. I didn’t smell anything. I smelled nothing except for my burnt roast. The remainders of my burnt roast,” Lausmann said in a telephone interview. “Ten more minutes, and I would have been toast.”

Fire officials said they want to encourage area residents to purchase carbon monoxide detectors and be aware of the dangers the deadly gas poses.

“You can’t see it, you can’t smell it,” said Medford Fire-Rescue Deputy Chief Justin Bates. “It’s really that invisible killer.”

Firefighters took carbon monoxide readings inside Lausmann’s east Medford house and the readings were through the roof: anywhere from 70 to 80 parts per million.

“Anything over about 35 parts per million for us is considered dangerous,” Bates said.

Firefighters ruled out the home’s heating system and other appliances as the source, and found it was coming from the malfunctioning oven. Crews used a large electric fan to clear out the gas.

“For the longest time, up until about a week ago, I wouldn’t use my oven,” Lausmann said, adding she now makes nightly checks on the appliance to make sure it’s off.

At least 430 people die in the U.S. annually because of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The gas also sends about 50,000 people to the emergency room every year.

“We see it this time of year most often, and in colder climates,” said ADT spokesman Bob Tucker.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.

“It shows up different in different people,” Bates says. “Just a general feeling of not feeling well. Almost like when you’re starting to get the flu.”

Officials recommend changing the batteries in carbon monoxide detectors every six months, and to seek medical help right away if poisoning is suspected.


Information from: Mail Tribune,