DANVERS — Health officials have condemned a small ranch home at 8 Oak St. after an incident in which three family members were sickened and hospitalized Wednesday morning from high levels of carbon monoxide.
Health officials later condemned the home, located on a street not far from Danvers Square. They said it was plagued by signs of hoarding and other problems, including a leaky hot water heater that led to the poisonous gas buildup.
The residents, a couple in their 50s and their daughter in her early 20s, were taken first to Beverly Hospital by Lyons Ambulance, and then to Massachusetts General Hospital where they were treated and released, according to Fire Chief Kevin Farrell.
Lawrence "Larry" Davis, who owns the house with his wife, Laura, said he spent a day in the hospital and is OK, but he did not want to discuss issues relating to the home's condition.
"It's a personal issue between my wife and I," said Davis, who works at Hartnett Car Wash and Auto Body in Danversport. "I don't wish to have it in the paper."
Farrell said the Davis family is lucky to be alive given a reading on Lt. Michael Graves's multi-gas detector, which found levels higher than 1,000 parts per million of carbon monoxide. The meter tops out at 999 parts per million, Farrell said. Levels of the odorless and colorless gas in a home are typically 0.5 to 5 parts per million, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The home lacked carbon monoxide detectors, which was part of the reason why health officials condemned it.
"Had they had carbon monoxide detectors," Farrell said, "they would have gone into alarm early on" and warned the family of the danger before they were sickened.
A medical call of three people feeling sick came into fire officials at 5:41 a.m. Wednesday, Farrell said. Firefighters of Engine 3 suspected carbon monoxide to be the reason. Graves's detector sounded the alarm as soon as he stepped inside. Firefighters immediately saw two women, one on the couch, and one on the floor motionless, and dragged them out before firefighters could put on breathing apparatus.
"One of the family, the older females, indicated her husband was still in the house," Farrell said. Firefighters donned self-contained breathing apparatus and dragged Larry Davis from the bathroom.
Farrell pegged the cause of the dangerous gas buildup to a leaking hot water heater that would not shut off.
"The Fire Department believes that the damaged hot water heater was the cause of your family's carbon monoxide poisoning," wrote Health Inspector Mark Carleo in the notice condemning the house.
The gas-fired hot water heater had sprung a leak in the line on the discharge side of the tank, Farrell said. As the water flowed out, it caused cold water to flow in, and the heater kept running. Farrell said a problem with the flue also led to the CO buildup.
Because the family did not fix the hot water heater "in a reasonable time period and the subsequent damage to the dwelling," the town discontinued water service, Carleo said.
There were other problems in the home, and Carleo outlined "unsanitary conditions" in the single-family ranch built about 1940 and assessed at $214,700 in town records.
None of the violations pose a risk to neighbors.
"Accumulation of clutter, garbage and rubbish prevents routine cleaning of surfaces or inspection for compliance" with requirements for kitchens, Carleo wrote. "It was questionable whether the shower or bathtub was functioning as it appeared it is used as storage."
The town shut off electric, water and gas to the home, in part because of the use of temporary wiring and extension cords "running throughout the dwelling underneath piles of clutter."
"The level of hoarding makes safe passage throughout the dwelling and safe egress much too difficult," Carleo wrote.
Problems were also found with the front concrete steps; a floor to an enclosed porch was "in imminent danger of collapse;" and rear egress was hampered by overgrowth and debris. The roof over the front entrance leaked, damaging the floor below. The kitchen floor "is in disrepair and may collapse."
"Severe and extensive" mold spores on walls and ceilings were a sign of "water infiltration and chronic dampness," Carleo wrote.
Carleo said he has been in touch with Davis to fix the issues with the home.
The family is staying with relatives until they can make repairs, Farrell said. They have also been put in touch with Pamela Parkinson, the town's director of senior and social services, who is looking to provide assistance through the Danvers Community Council.
"He's a good worker and he has a great work ethic," said Davis's employer, Alan Hartnett. "He's worked for me for a lot of years," said Hartnett, calling Davis "a great guy."
When asked how he was doing, Davis said, "it depends on how you consider how" and he described his situation as "mentally taxing."
Davis did not want to discuss the condition of his home out of fear of being embarrassed.
"I would like certain things to remain private, no matter what is in the report," he said of Carleo's report. "My wife and I have problems, and I would like them to remain private."
Farrell said the incident highlights the need for people to be vigilant about carbon monoxide dangers in the summer months when their furnaces are still working to make hot water.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673 or by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @DanverSalemNews.