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Bipartisan Push to Enhance Home Safety After Carbon-Monoxide Deaths

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Wednesday, January 12, 2022   

The recent deaths of a family of seven have renewed bipartisan attempts to keep homes safe from carbon monoxide. One North Dakota fire chief welcomes federal efforts from both sides of the aisle in creating awareness.

In December, the victims were found in a home near the North Dakota/Minnesota border, with carbon-monoxide poisoning suspected. This week, U.S. Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., urged a federal agency to release more information on what's being done to prevent these tragedies.

Even with a divided government, Chief Rex Weltikol of the Minot Rural Fire Department said he hopes the response provides more opportunities to learn from what happened.

"When the news comes out that all these bad things happen," he said, "there's got to be some good that comes out of that also."

Specifically, the chief said, doing more to promote installing home carbon-monoxide detectors is important. In their letter to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the senators want details on how it's coordinating with states on safety outreach, including educational materials that are multilingual. The victims in the recent tragedy were members of an immigrant family from Honduras.

Elsewhere, this month's deadly apartment building fire in New York City has renewed calls to look into racial disparities in the safety threats facing renters. Weltikol said he feels this is an area where public servants can go above and beyond to help communities.

"The way we look at it here," he said, "there's never, never enough reaching out to everybody to let them know the dangers of it."

The two senators have co-sponsored legislation in past sessions encouraging states to require residential carbon-monoxide detectors. In 2017, state leaders in North Dakota were criticized for rejecting a bill requiring them for certain rental properties. Gov. Doug Burgum vetoed it, citing individual responsibility in adding safeguards.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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