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Carbon monoxide sickens people in NE Portland church

UPDATE • High levels of the gas came from building's furnace

More than a dozen people inside a Northeast Portland church were sickened Tuesday night by carbon monoxide from the building's furnace.

Portland Fire and Rescue said nine people were taken to local hospitals for treatment after falling ill inside the Northeast Baptist Church, 6701 N.E. Prescott St. Two others were treated at the church but were not taken to a hospital.

Firefighters were called at about 8:25 p.m. when 15 people in the church began to feel sick. The building's furnace was turned on for the first time this fall, sending high levels of carbon monoxide into the church, causing the people to become nauseous and dizzy.

They left the building and called firefighters, who brought in a hazardous material team to check out the church. The team discovered extremely high levels of carbon monoxide near the furnace.

'In the basement, carbon monoxide levels were at 1,400 ppm (parts per million), which can be deadly after prolonged exposure,' said HazMat Coordinator Grant Coffey. 'Elsewhere in the church, levels were at up to 400 ppm, which can also make people extremely sick.'

Because carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and undetectable to human senses, people did not know they were being exposed.