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Close call for Twin Cities man is reminder to check for expired carbon monoxide detectors

The officer told Mills his neighbor in the adjoining home had gone out for several hours, inadvertently leaving a car running in the garage.

As he watched television Saturday evening, Blake Mills couldn’t figure it out.  Why was he so tired? 

“I could not stay awake,” the Golden Valley resident said. 

Mills got a call from a friend.  “She said, ‘Are you drunk?’ This was like within 30 seconds of talking to her, she immediately said, ‘Have you been drinking?’”

He wasn’t drinking.

Yet, Mills passed out.

His dog started barking.

Then Mills heard pounding on the windows and doors of his twin home.  A police officer and a firefighter were trying to roust him.

“’Sir, the carbon monoxide levels are extremely high next door,” an officer told Mills when he made it to the door. “’Their pets have died - they're dead.  You have to come now,’” the first responders told him.

A police officer escorted Mills to the back of a squad car where he was hooked up to oxygen. 

The officer told Mills his neighbor in the adjoining home had gone out for several hours, inadvertently leaving a car running in the garage. 

The neighbor returned to two dead cats.

Mills got out just in time but was puzzled. Why hadn't his carbon monoxide detector sounded?

The likely answer: it was past its expiration date.

"It's really important they get replaced when they should be,” said Bethany Brunsell, assistant Golden Valley fire chief.

Brunsell said carbon monoxide detectors have life spans from 5 to 10 years, depending on the make and model.

“It's from the date you start using it,” Brunsell added.

Mills’ detector was manufactured in 2006, 13 years ago.

Since it didn’t require batteries, Mills had installed it and forgotten it.

“I just assumed because it was hardwired it would last forever, but it doesn’t work forever,” Mills said.

Brunsell said all carbon monoxide detectors made since 1998 carry a manufacture date. Some also have a blank space for a homeowner to write down the replacement date on the detector. She said homeowners would be wise to save packaging and owner’s manuals as reminders to replace detectors by their expiration date.

“This is a very common that a lot of people don't know that these things expire,” Brunsell said. “I’ve been to homes before were people have alarms that are 20 to 30 years old.”

The Golden Valley Fire Department has just launched a program to give free smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to elderly and low-income residents.

The department sent one along for Mills as well. He can use one.

“Time for a new one,” Mills said.  “Thanks guys.”

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