Utah church where 54 fell sick wasn’t required to have carbon monoxide detector

Local church leaders say carbon monoxide monitors will be installed.

(Google Maps) Carbon monoxide monitors will be installed in this Latter-day Saint meetinghouse in Monroe, Utah, where more than 50 fell sick after an apparent gas leak on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, according to local church leaders.

The Latter-day Saint meetinghouse where more than 50 people fell sick with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning Sunday did not have carbon monoxide detectors — and the south-central Utah building wasn’t required to have them, according to the state fire marshal.

Public buildings, including churches, are required to meet all codes in place at the time of their construction, according to Utah State Fire Marshal Ted Black. He noted that the meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Monroe, where the carbon monoxide leak unfolded, was built several decades ago, before detectors were required.

According to a statement from the Monroe stake presidency, lay leaders who oversee the Latter-day Saint congregations in that area, carbon monoxide monitors “and other safeguards” will be installed inside the Monroe meetinghouse’s equipment room. Monroe is located about 175 miles south of Salt Lake City and has a population of about 2,500.

“Until then,” the statement added, “no one will be permitted to enter the building until repairs are made.”

The carbon monoxide leak affected 54 people Sunday, according to a church spokesperson. At least 49 required medical attention, and 22 were hospitalized.

All had been released by Tuesday, according to the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office. “No one had any long-lasting effects that we know of, from this,” said Black, who advised caution but not fear over the leak.

“This is a singular event out of thousands within the state,” he said, “and hundreds of thousands throughout the country at these types of buildings. It’s not something people need to be really worried about — ‘should I go to church next Sunday?’ … But it also would be appropriate to have your equipment maintained.”

An investigation into the gas leak is ongoing, but it appears there was a malfunction in the meetinghouse’s heating system, according to a church spokesperson. There’s no word on when repairs and updates will be completed at the meetinghouse.

The faith’s global headquarters in Salt Lake City did not immediately reply to an inquiry about whether the church has a policy regarding carbon monoxide detectors in its buildings.

The church’s website does include guidance on carbon monoxide safety for missionaries, including “the importance of having working carbon monoxide detectors, and what to do if the alarm sounds.” Under a section of the website listing administrative resources, missionaries can purchase a carbon monoxide detector for about $48.

Black advised people to purchase carbon monoxide detectors for their homes, if they don’t already have one. He also recommended making sure heating systems are maintained by a certified professional.

“If you do that once a year, you significantly reduce any chance that you’ll ever have a problem,” he said.

The state fire marshal added that building codes such as requiring carbon monoxide detectors are generally not retroactive “because of the cost burden placed on the owner.”

“We could actually drive everybody out of business if we had them change their building every time a new code came out,” he said. “So there’s some appropriate hesitancy to make codes retroactive.”

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