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Valley County man died from apparent carbon monoxide poisoning

The incident happened at around 5 a.m. on December 11
Posted at 2:59 PM, Dec 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-23 16:59:13-05

A 70-year-old Valley County man died from apparent carbon monoxide poisoning after a malfunction from a heating system, according to the Glasgow Courier .

The body of Kenneth Portra was taken to Billings for autopsy last week after he died in his home. His wife had also been in the home but was able to call 911 and was rescued by paramedics.

According to Valley County Sheriff/Coroner Tom Boyer, the incident happened at around 5 a.m. on December 11. The nature of the carbon monoxide poisoning is still being investigated, but Boyer believes the source may been a recently-installed heating system. Until the investigation is complete, Boyer has declined to say who had installed the unit.

Great Falls Fire Rescue recommends taking the following measures to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Make sure your carbon monoxide detector is working, batteries have been changed, and the detector is dust-free.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor where a fossil-fuel burning appliance is located.
  • Have your fireplace inspected by a licensed Heating and Ventilation Inspector (HVI) each year.
  • Check that vents are free from snow-like those for your furnace, dryer, and stove-so that CO can escape through those vents.
  • Avoid starting your car in the garage, as doing so can set off a CO alarm.

Dirk Johnson, Great Falls Fire Marshal, said, "If the alarm does go off and there is a problem, you definitely want someone there with the right test equipment to make sure that the house is safe, that it is a false alarm or it is a true alarm. And you want someone else besides the homeowner to do that. And that’s what we’re here for."

If you do experience any carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms - like unusual headaches or tiredness - Johnson urges you get fresh air and call emergency services. "Make sure you get outside, open the windows, and then evacuate the house for sure,” Johnson said.

Here is more information from the National Fire Protection Association about the hazards associated with carbon monoxide:

  • CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes or standards. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
  • Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Call your local fire department’s non-emergency number to find out what number to call if the CO alarm sounds.
  • Test CO alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.
  • If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call for help from a fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
  • A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings.
  • Gas or charcoal grills can produce CO — only use outside.