Snow from the blizzard that buried Monroe and the rest of New England was "fluffy" and didn't stick to trees, allowing townspeople to avoid suffering serious damage from falling trees and debris and massive power outages, according to Monroe Fire Department spokesman Kevin Catalano. But firefighters responded to a few calls over the weekend so far.
Two instances of carbon monoxide from direct vent furnaces backing up into houses, a live wire falling across a plow truck on Moose Hill Road and a water main break on Walnut Street made up the most serious calls.
"We were prepared for the worst," Catalano said. "We thought there would be power outages, car accidents, and trees and wires down. But Monroe was relatively lucky with power outages. All in all we weren’t quite as busy as we thought, so that is good."
However, with roads clogged with snow, getting around was a challenge. In one instance, firefighters had to use a Highway Department truck to get to a call.
At 2:30 Saturday morning, Elm Street residents called emergency responders when the carbon monoxide detector went off in their home and there was an odor in their basement, Catalano said.
Most furnaces vent into the chimney, but Catalano said the one on Elm Street vents through the walls to the outside. When snow drifts block the ventilation, he said the exhaust goes back into the house.
Even though plow truck drivers tried to clear the way for the fire truck, firefighters didn't make it very far from Station 1 on Route 110 before getting stuck.
"We had to improvise a little," Catalano said. "One of the guys got on the phone with the homeowner and told them what to do before we got there. Someone had to take a Highway Department truck to get there. I think people realize when things are extreme it takes longer to respond."
At 5:45 a.m., firefighters received a second furnace call, this time on Evergreen Lane — and their truck was able to make it there.
"They thought they had a gas leak because of the smell," Catalano said.
In both cases, he said firefighters shut down the furnace, cleared and opened up the vents, and opened windows and doors to bring in fresh air and ventilate the house. Then meter readings were taken at the houses to measure the levels of any carbon monoxide that could be still be present, he said.
"If you have these direct vent furnace configurations, make sure it's clear," Catalano said.
In addition to clearing snow away from furnace vents, Catalano asks residents to dig up fire hydrants so firefighters can see them when responding to a call. And to make sure any elderly homeowners have their front entrance shoveled, so they have at least one way out in case of an emergency and so EMS volunteers can get to them on medical calls.
Live Wire, a Broken Water Main
At around 10 a.m., a plow truck driver was working on Moose Hill Road when a tree came crashing down, taking wires with it — and a live wire came into contact with the truck, according to Catalano.
"He did the right thing and stayed in the truck," Catalano said of the driver. "We called the power company and it was quickly able to shut down the power."
Catalano said the driver was okay.
Then at 2 p.m., a water main had burst on Walnut Street. Catalano said there had also been one on Captains Hill Road the night before.
"On Walnut Street, water ran down the driveway," he said. "We secured the area and called Aquarion to stop the leak. They had a hard time getting there. I don't know how long it took."
Catalano also did not know what caused the water main to break.
On Saturday night, Victoria O'Brien, who lives in the neighborhood, said the street was still closed. "Water is now frozen on the road from Tulip Drive to Cottontail Lane," she said.