2 dead from generator fumes

A Pasadena father and his 3-year-old daughter died earlier today -- and another person was hospitalized -- after inhaling carbon monoxide fumes from a portable generator being used to power their home darkened by Hurricane Isabel, Anne Arundel County fire officials said this morning.

Ronald M. Hall, 22, and McKayla R. Hall, 3, of the 7800 block Catherine Ave., were pronounced dead at North Arundel Hospital about 7 a.m., said Capt. Bob Rose, public information officer for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.

A 20-year-old woman, Crystal Rosendale, was listed in serious condition at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, Rose said.

Firefighters were called to the home around 6:25 a.m. for a report of carbon monoxide poisoning, Rose said. They found "high levels" of the odorless gas -- more than 1,000 parts per million, he said.

"Generally, 35 parts per million is considered an occupational hazard," Rose said. "At 100, you're going to get ill."

The gasoline-powered portable generator was found in Hall's basement, Rose said. It was turned off but it had been used all night. The area was without power because of Hurricane Isabel. The storm is being blamed for at least 24 deaths, including five in Maryland, and potentially billions of dollars in damage.

"Many people associate symptoms of carbon monoxide poisioning with the flu," Rose said. "There's nausea and headaches, and many people -- especially in the winter -- think they have the flu at the lower-exposure levels."

According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, portable generators can cause death from inhaling fumes or electrocution when connecting the generator to a home's electrical wiring system.

To avoid breathing in the deadly fumes, generators should not be used indoors or in attached garages.

Only use a generator outdside in a well-ventilated, dry area -- away from ways air can get into a home. Also protect the generator from direct exposure to rain and snow.

"Not even next to the house, because you have fans and other ways the fumes can come in," Rose said.

He recommended that special carbon monoxide detectors be used with generators. "A regular smoke detector won't do anything for detecting carbon monoxide."

To prevent electrocution, plug appliances into the portable generator using only heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords and do not plug the generator into a wall outlet inside a home, according to the CPSC.

Only connect the generator into the house wiring if necessary, using a licensed electrician, the agency said.

Rose agreed, noting that a Pasadena man caused a minor fire to his home on Old Mill Road Friday about 6 p.m. during a power surge after he had incorrectly connected his generator to the home's power system.

The fire started in a bathroom ceiling fan and spread to the attic, Rose said. The man, whose identity was not released, was not injured.

"It was minor," Rose said, "but it could've been worse."

Recommended on Baltimore Sun