Lincoln family safe after carbon monoxide scare

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Allison Richtarik smelled natural gas in her home this morning and called Black Hills Electric to figure out the problem. When Black Hills tested for natural gas in the home, they found it had 240 parts-per-million of carbon monoxide, which is odorless.

A healthy level of carbon monoxide is zero.

The family was evacuated immediately and called Lincoln Fire and Rescue.

"It's a scary thought that I could have hurt my family, and I wouldn't know the mistake I did," said Richtarik, after her home had been cleared of carbon monoxide.

Her grandson had taken panels off of the furnace, and she had replaced them in the wrong place. The misplaced panels were causing the exhaust to funnel back into the house. The family said they had been feeling strange all week.

"I had been getting headaches the past few days," said Haley Tomka, Ritcharik's daughter. I didn't know why I had been getting these bad headaches... and the kids were acting goofy."

Tomka says all of these symptoms could have been prevented if the family had a working carbon monoxide detector.

"It's very important to have a CO detector. Just like a smoke detector, it could save your life," said Captain Mark Heithoff of LFR. Carbon monoxide detectors are available at most big box and hardware stores.

Many household appliances can malfunction and create a risk for carbon monoxide poisoning, says Capt. Heithoff.

"It's not like smoke; you can't see it, you can't smell it, you can't taste it. You might recognize the symptoms, but unless you have a detector that's telling you it's there or your behavior is strange and someone recognizes it in you, how else are you going to be able to tell," said Capt. Heithoff.

It is recommended to have carbon monoxide detectors on every level of the house, especially near bedrooms. LFR says the average carbon monoxide detector lasts about 7 years.