Firefighters warn of natural gas dangers - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Firefighters warn of natural gas dangers

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BENTON, Ill. -- In light of recent house explosions across the nation, local first responders are offering tips on what to do if you smell natural gas.

Last week, a home in California exploded, injuring a mother, father and their infant daughter. Just days earlier, another home in Minnesota went up in a ball of flames, badly injuring the man inside. 

"This is something that can happen anywhere. It can happen on the East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, South, North," said Coleman, a firefighter with the city of Benton. 

And they have happened here. In 2013, a home in Du Quoin exploded from a natural gas leak, killing the 83 year old who lived there. Benton firefighter, Lieutenant Jeff Coleman, says his department recently responded to a home with extremely dangerous levels of natural gas.

"His gas was above the upper explosion limit within the house. He couldn't smell it because you become immune to it after so long," said Coleman. 

Natural gas has an odor added for safety, which many compare to the smell of rotten eggs. Coleman says if your home has enough gas inside to explode, the smallest spark can set it off, even electricity from your cell phone. 

"Evacuate the house, make sure everyone else is out of the house, call Ameren and wait for them to get there or call 911," said Coleman. 

Coleman warns natural gas isn't the only danger this time of year when heating systems are turned on. 2,000 people die and 40,000 others are treated each year for carbon monoxide poisoning. He advises having a carbon monoxide (CO) detector in your home about 15 feet from the bedroom. 

Overall, he suggests keeping up with maintenance, "Biggest thing is to make sure you have your heating and air serviced regularly."  

Ameren Illinois says if you smell a rotten egg odor, leave the area immediately and call them. Crews respond to gas leak calls 24/7, free of charge.

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