A build-up of carbon monoxide in a home at 514 N. Cherry St. forced an Ottawa woman and her infant child to evacuate the residence Sunday afternoon.

Angel Kolbury called the Ottawa Fire Department about 1 p.m. Sunday to report the carbon monoxide alarm in the home had activated continuously for several seconds, a fire department report said. Firefighters arrived on the scene four minutes later and met with Kolbury, who was waiting on the front porch, the report said.

Firefighters and a Kansas Gas Company representative took readings in the home that indicated a carbon monoxide level of more than 30 parts per million, the report said. A normal reading is 5 to 15 ppm, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration permissible exposure limit for carbon monoxide is 50 ppm, according to the Environmental Protection Agency website.

Firefighters and the gas company representative determined the home’s furnace was not functioning properly, which likely accounted for the elevated level of carbon monoxide in the home, the report said.

The infant, who had a tracheotomy tube, was examined at the scene by an emergency medical technician with the fire department, who found no apparent signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, the report said.

Because of the frigid conditions with temperatures in the mid-20s and the infant’s medical condition, the fire department contacted the Red Cross, Rick Oglesby, assistant Ottawa fire chief, said. The Red Cross agreed to pay for the woman and infant to stay in a local hotel for up to three days while the furnace was repaired, the fire report said.

At higher concentrations, carbon monoxide can cause impaired vision and coordination, headaches, dizziness, confusion and nausea, according to the EPA website. Elevated carbon monoxide levels can cause flu-like symptoms that clear up after leaving the home, the EPA said. Very high concentrations of carbon monoxide can be fatal, according to the EPA.

“Carbon monoxide is odorless, so you’re not going to smell it,” Oglesby said. “That’s why we encourage everyone to have a carbon monoxide detector in their homes.”

The assistant fire chief also encouraged homeowners to make sure their furnaces or heating units were functioning properly.

“At this time of year, people haven’t had their furnaces on for several months, so they haven’t been tuned up or looked at in a while,” he said. “If you continue to have flu-like symptoms but you don’t have the flu and you feel better when you’re not at home, you may want to have your home checked [for carbon monoxide levels]. A carbon monoxide detector can save lives.”