CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sunday services are cancelled at a west Charlotte church after 15 people fell ill and six were taken to the hospital after a carbon monoxide leak.
Charlotte Fire Department Battalion Chief Dale Brown said the between 16 and 18 people had been in Shiloh Baptist Church's main sanctuary on Greenland Avenue for about 45 minutes when they felt sick and called for help.
The church is located in the Camp Greene neighborhood, a block from Wilkinson Blvd.
Batt. Chief Brown said when the first firefighters arrived at the church, they evacuated church members and tested for carbon monoxide.
Their meters read the CO level as 1,000 parts per million -- the term used to measure gases in the air. A carbon monoxide detector will alarm at just 35 ppm, considered the highest safe level for a few hours' exposure.
“That means get out because it's getting to the point you don't need to be there,” said firefighter Darin McIntosh of the 35 ppm level.
The church did not have carbon monoxide detectors, said Brown.
Mecklenburg County requires the detectors in homes -- houses, apartments, townhomes, and condominiums – and daycares, but not in churches. A new state law requires them in hotels.
Five of the six church members taken to local hospitals had potentially life-threatening injuries, according to MEDIC.
By late Saturday afternoon, Associate Minister Joseph Talley said one person had been released and the other five were being processed for release.
"I'm a long time member. I grew up in this church," said Talley as he prepared to visit church members in the hospital. "Everybody who was in there, I've known them ever since they were small -- they're my peers or contemporaries."
One church member told NBC Charlotte the church's furnace had just been repaired and certified for use within the past year.
All expressed relief that the carbon monoxide scare didn't happen Sunday morning when the church was full, and could have affected more people.
Firefighters spent more than three hours airing out the church to remove dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, and church leaders canceled Sunday services.
A mechanical contractor visited the church Saturday afternoon to check the furnace.
Brown reminded homeowners how to prevent close calls like this one.
“Have your systems checked and make sure they're working properly,” he said, “and install carbon monoxide detectors.”