The owner of the Minneapolis building where a carbon monoxide leak injured five people Tuesday failed to comply with safety regulations, the city's fire marshal said.
The Stevens House Cooperative had not installed carbon monoxide detectors in any of the building's 67 units, said Minneapolis Fire Marshal Bryan Tyner. Two people remain hospitalized in critical condition as a result of the leak.
"This was a tragedy," Tyner said. "I'm happy that we were able to get there when we did because it could've been a lot worse."
Fire crews arrived at the building, at 2633 Stevens Avenue South, at 12:34 a.m. Tuesday after residents complained of nausea and headaches. Tyner said the leak came from a furnace that had not been checked or cleaned in preparation for the winter.
Crews found dangerously high carbon monoxide levels throughout the building, which was evacuated for several hours. The gas remains shut off, but Tyner said he expects the owner will fix the problem and have service restored by the end of the week.
City regulations require that all licensed apartment units, single family homes, and new construction properties have a detector installed within ten feet of sleeping areas.
The Stevens House Cooperative had received a provisional rental license on December 22, 2009, Tyner said, because the owners wanted to be able to rent out some of the unoccupied units.
City regulations allow owners to receive the provisional license before the building receives a fire inspection. The Minneapolis building was scheduled for inspection in October.
Fire officials issued a violation order to the cooperative Tuesday, granting it ten days to install the detectors. Tyner said that if the detectors are installed promptly, the cooperative will not receive any fines or criminal charges.
The fire marshal could issue a misdemeanor citation for violating the fire code, a penalty that carries up to a $1,000 fine or up to a year in jail, or could issue an administrative fine. The fine for a first offense is $200, and it doubles for each additional offense, until it tops off at $2,000.
Tyner said the incident serves as a reminder that most carbon monoxide injuries are preventable. He said tenants should contact the property manager and call 311 if their unit does not have a carbon monoxide detector within ten feet of all sleeping spaces.
He also advised that home owners install the devices and have furnaces checked and cleaned before turning them on for the winter.