Two families sharing a Santa Ana house they had just moved into suffered carbon monoxide poisoning early Thursday after using a small barbecue grill to cook and provide heat, fire officials said.
The seven residents--three adults and four children--moved into the house New Year's Eve, but their gas service was not scheduled to be connected until today, a Southern California Gas Co. spokesman said.
Battalion Chief John Chambers of the Santa Ana Fire Department said a call requesting medical help at a house in the 1000 block of West Highland Street was received at 3:28 a.m.
"They mentioned they were feeling ill--flu-like symptoms," Chambers said. "They were probably ignorant of the fact that they were being poisoned."
All seven people were taken to three area hospitals. Two of them were considered by fire officials to be seriously injured. However, hospital officials said all seven were treated and released Thursday.
The names of the family members were not released, but Chambers said the adults included two women and a man. The children included a 3-year-old girl, a 10-year-old boy, and two older girls, 13 and 17.
A small barbecue grill half filled with charcoal briquette bits and ashes stood a couple of feet from the front door Thursday afternoon. Blankets were spread on the floor of the sparsely furnished living room and a pot of food was left on the kitchen table.
Neighbors said the two families had enjoyed a New Year's Day lunch of chicken and soup in their front yard.
"I guess because they didn't have gas, someone brought over some food, and they ate outside," said Carmen Diaz, who lives next door.
The accident caused fire and gas company officials to renew public warnings about the hazards of operating outdoor grills inside houses and garages.
"People have a very hard time understanding how much oxygen a barbecue pit uses up in the house," gas company spokesman Paul Ramos said. "They get sick very slowly and they don't know what's happening."
Chambers called the unsafe practice "a prescription for death."
The UC Irvine Regional Poison Control Center said carbon monoxide poisoning from barbecue grills usually occurs when families cannot afford to pay for utilities.
But gas company officials said low-income families can apply for discounts on gas bills by calling (714) 634-0251. Information for a state assistance program, LIHEAT, also can be obtained by calling the Home Energy Assistance Line at 1 (800) 433-4327.