Carbon monoxide blamed in ice storm blackout deaths

Two people in the Toronto area are dead from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning as residents try unconventional ways to heat their homes following the weekend’s ice storm.

Gas generators, chimneys and charcoal BBQs to blame as people try to heat their homes

Three residents are given oxygen after a charcoal barbecue was used in a highrise on Kingston Road in Toronto. (Tony Smyth/CBC)


  • 2 deaths in Ontario linked to gas fumes.
  • Toronto Fire and EMS receive 110 calls for CO poisoning.
  • Officials warn public about dangers of unconventional heating.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is being blamed for two deaths in Ontario as residents try to stay warm following the weekend's ice storm, which continues to leave thousands in the dark.

Emergency services were called to a home in Newcastle, Ont., a community east of Toronto, Monday afternoon after several people reported feeling ill, according to Durham Regional Police.

Police say a gas-powered generator was running in the garage to help heat the home. Though the garage did not have access to the house, the CO fumes managed to seep in.

A 52-year-old man and his 72-year-old mother were killed. Their names have not been released.

Emergency teams were called to another CO poisoning in Toronto on Tuesday afternoon. Two people suffered moderate exposure to the gas from a charcoal barbecue at a location near Lawrence West Avenue and Allen Road. Two females aged 12 and 76 were taken to hospital.

There have been multiple reported health emergencies since the ice storm as people — many of whom have had no power for more than 48 hours — struggle to stay warm. Police in Sept-Îles, Que., reported three people died from carbon monoxide poisoning but have since said more investigation into the cause of death is needed.

Mayor Rob Ford updated the public Tuesday at a news conference, saying that call volumes to Toronto Fire and EMS have risen dramatically. 

"Call volumes [are] at approximately four times their regular call volume," Ford said, specifically emphasizing the amount of emergencies related to carbon monoxide fumes. 

"There were 110 carbon monoxide calls, typically there are 20."

CO emergencies overnight

Four residents, including a two-year-old child, were transported to hospital from their home on Danforth Road after using a charcoal barbecue for heating and cooking.

Crews battle a two-alarm fire in a blacked-out area of Scarborough early Tuesday. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

On Monday, at around 8:20 p.m. ET, two people from a home near Vaughan Road were hospitalized after they also burned charcoal in a barbecue indoors in an attempt to keep warm.

Similarly, at around 11:14 p.m., five people in Scarborough were taken to hospital after burning charcoal and another man and woman were also assisted by EMS at around 2:40 a.m. for the same thing.

"Basically the warning is simple: Do not burn charcoal or propane in enclosed space," EMS Deputy Commander David Vijakainen said. “Call EMS for assistance or for advice on how to get transport to warming centres."

Fire in Scarborough

Toronto Fire has also reported many chimney fires and calls regarding carbon monoxide fumes and is warning the public about many live wires that remain down.

Flames ripped through the roof of a home on Red Deer Avenue in Scarborough overnight. The area was blacked out and no one was home at the time. The home was severely damaged.