close

Christina Colston stood outside her Colorado Springs home with firefighters in the pre-dawn hours on Aug. 21 when the crew spotted smoke coming from Colston’s roof.

She called the fire department because her Carbon Monoxide detector went off at 1:30 in the morning and she wanted to find out why.

It turned out a fire had been smoldering in her attic for hours and possibly even days. She had no idea.

“Before I went to bed, I smelled something funny – almost like something rotten,” she said.

She investigated the trashcans and even hung air fresheners. Firefighters told her later that the rotten odor was probably the fire smoldering in the ceiling above her.

The flames likely would have taken her whole house up in smoke if not for her early detection, they told her.

“I am so lucky,” Colston said. “And I’m so grateful to the ERC.”

The Energy Resource Center installed the high-end Carbon Monoxide detector on the upper floor of Colston’s home just the day before.

“If that hadn’t gone off, I might not have woken up,” she said.

She had a normal CO detector and a smoke alarm in the house which were located even closer to the source of the electrical fire. Neither went off.  

The Energy Resource Center did work on Colston’s home, which was built in 1968, several months before the fire. The organization added insulation to the attic and made other efficiency upgrades free of charge.

The ERC has worked to help income-qualified families permanently reduce their utility bills with efficiency upgrades since 1979. Colston’s home was one among more than 600 that the ERC upgraded in 2013.

As a rule, the organization installs CO-Expert detectors in all of the homes it upgrades. The high-end detectors cost about $90 retail and are far more sensitive than the average CO detectors, which typically require exposure to relatively high levels of CO for a significant period of time before they go off.

“We want to make sure we’re really protecting our clients,” said Howard Brooks, executive director of the ERC.

That’s why the nonprofit invests in the high-end detectors.

The ERC installed a CO-Expert detector in Colston’s lower level when crews did their initial energy efficiency work in 2013. That detector went off a week before the fire. The fire department said it was a problem with her water heater, but the ERC came back and didn’t see anything wrong with the water heater.

“We installed a second high-end CO detector on her upper level as a precaution,” Brooks said.

The precaution paid off.

“I was very lucky,” Colston said.

Newsletter Sign-Up

When you join our e-newsletter you’ll receive monthly updates regarding our efforts.