WEST ROXBURY, Mass. (WHDH) — With their basement CO detector wailing last February, Sara and Paul rushed out of their West Roxbury home.
Sara: “It’s a terrifying situation.”
When firefighters arrived they told the couple they found the basement filled with a dangerous amount of the colorless, odorless, and deadly gas.
Paul: “We definitely could have been killed.”
What set off the basement alarm? Our investigation found Sara and Paul were victims of a potentially lethal secret lurking beneath Boston streets: Underground electrical wires that were slowly burning and giving off poison gas.
Sara: “Carbon monoxide can kill you. You can just fall asleep and you don’t ever wake up again.”
Firefighters tell us the danger can start when aging underground utility wires are jostled and weakened by trucks passing overhead or construction work nearby. When those compromised wires begin to burn, they give off carbon monoxide and that carbon monoxide can seep right into your home.
Hank: “So this is dangerous and could happen in any home.”
Steve MacDonald, Boston Fire Department”: “It could. If the smoldering wires keep producing the gases, the gases are going to keep building up. And if there’s an open place for the gas to travel then it will travel that way.”
It happened in Charlestown this year too: Firefighters rushed to evacuate six homes.
Firefighter on scene: “I’m gonna check this house over here…”
An “underground electrical cable” was “burning” – the official report says – and the CO was “elevated” “to a dangerous level.”
How often does it happen? Eversource, the electricity supplier for Boston, insists this is very rare–But acknowledges three cases last year and three cases so far this year. They say it happens less and less as they update the system.
The best way to protect yourself: the CO detector that Massachusetts law requires you install in your home. Without one—Sara and Paul know they might have died.
Sara: “I think it’s a ticking time bomb under the streets of Boston.”
Eversource tells us they’re working to replace those aging, underground wires and they’re hoping to have it all done by the end of 2019.
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