Carol and Richard Dreith heard a sound as they were canning peaches in their kitchen Wednesday. At first, they thought their carbon monoxide detector was giving them a false alarm.
"It kept going off and kept going off, and I'm thinking, maybe we ought to call," said Carol Dreith. "So I finally called the propane company, and they said if it's an emergency call 911."
Carol then called the Mariposa County Fire Department. Chief Jim Wilson told her to shut off all appliances, open doors and windows, and go outside. By the time he arrived with a carbon monoxide meter, he found the level in their bedroom was still nearly six times higher than it should be, and he believes it had reached a potentially deadly level before the house was ventilated.
Chief Jim Wilson said, "It is called the silent killer, it is tasteless, odorless gas, and you really don't know even after you start to be affected that there's high levels in the home."
It was carbon monoxide poisoning that took the lives of two young sisters, their uncle, and their grandmother in Oakhurst in January. Just months before their deaths, the Mariposa County Fire Department received a federal grant to install 350 carbon monoxide detectors in homes to prevent such a tragedy. Volunteers from the Bootjack Station installed one of those free detectors in the Dreith's home.
"I love that detector," said Carol Dreith. "It saved our lives basically."
It turns out the gas burners the couple was using to cook their peaches were to blame, and the propane company had to adjust them.
Chief Wilson said, "I think this demonstrates that it can happen to anybody at any time and any place."
Chief Wilson says that's why it's critical for every home to have a carbon monoxide detector. They've been required by state law since last month. And the Dreith's hope anyone who hasn't installed one yet will be inspired by their story.
Carol Dreith said, "The most important thing in your life is your family and your loved ones, so it's very important."