VERNON – Odorless, invisible and tasteless, carbon monoxide is difficult to detect and potentially deadly. A Canadian who knows that all too well was in Vernon this week to advocate for change in this province.
John Gignac’s advocacy for carbon monoxide safety dates back to 2008 when his niece’s Woodstock, Ontario home became a tomb for her family.
“They turned their gas fireplace up downstairs and by 8 o’clock that evening the whole family was down with carbon monoxide and it was all from a blocked vent from their gas fireplace. They hadn’t had it checked for 10 or 15 years,” says Gignac.
Cassandra,14, and Jordan, 12, are believed to have died that night along with their father.
Days later their mother, Gignac’s neice Laurie Hawkins, was discovered by a worried colleague.
“He decided to go over to the house to find out what was going on, saw what was going on with the blackened windows and everything, kicked the door in, went in with a handkerchief on his face, heard her coughing, found her and dragged her out into the snow,” says Gignac. Laurie didn’t survive.
Her family’s death has pushed Gignac to take action.
“I’m out here saying let’s not wait for a tragedy. Why does a family have to die for the rest of us to go out and buy a CO alarm or a smoke alarm?” asks Gignac.
Gignac spoke to fire prevention officers from across B.C. at their meet in Vernon this week. He was calling for tougher rules in this province.
Currently, many new homes in B.C. require carbon monoxide alarms, but older homes don’t unless they’re being renovated.
Gignac would like to see the province go further and pass a law making CO alarms mandatory in all homes.
The Hawkins family didn’t have a CO alarm. Gignac is hoping others will learn from his family’s tragedy and not risk suffering the same fate.
-with files from Minna Rhee and Darryl Konynenbelt