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Bemidji Community Arena closed due to high carbon monoxide levels

BEMIDJI - Elevated carbon-monoxide levels have led a closure of the Bemidji Community Arena Sunday morning.

The Bemidji Fire Department tested carbon monoxide at the site Sunday morning and found more than 40 parts per million, which prompted an immediate closure of the facility, Sathers said.

The arena remains temporary closed until its Zamboni machine is examined, said Bemidji Fire Chief Dick Sathers.

A Bantam BI 16-team tournament was being held over the weekend and was in progress at the time the Fire Department evacuated the facility, but the tournament was able to continue at Neilson-Reise Arena and Nymore Arena, said Dan Dow, the president of the Bemidji Community Arena board.

The Bemidji Community Arena board planned to meet Monday night to discuss its options, Dow said.

There is some discrepancy regarding the actual allowance for carbon-monoxide levels in ice rinks.

The Bemidji Fire Department follows Occupational Safety & Health Administration guidelines through the U.S. Department of Labor which dictates that any carbon-monoxide levels detected above 35 ppm necessitate the immediate evacuation of all structures, Sathers said.

But, the Minnesota Department of Health states that indoor ice arenas are allowed to have up to 125 ppm.

The Department of Health guidelines would put the Bemidji Community Arena well within its limits, Dow said.

Sathers said he is working with John Olson, the enforcement coordinator of indoor air units with the Minnesota Department of Health, on the matter.

Kelly Skime, an emergency medical technician, was working at the tournament Saturday afternoon and later became ill. He went to North Country Regional Hospital and medical personnel detected elevated levels of carbon monoxide in his system.

Skime was given oxygen for at least four hours, Sathers said. NCRH said Skime was treated and released.

After learning of Skime and the possibility of children whose parents said they were ill, the Fire Department arrived at the Bemidji Community Arena at 8:05 a.m. Sunday to check its carbon monoxide levels and found levels in the mid-40s.

The Zamboni machine was determined to be the source of the carbon monoxide problem after the Minnesota Energy Resource Center determined that all natural gas appliances were not the source, according to a report from the Fire Department.

Firefighters had workers start up the Zamboni machine in the garage where it is kept and the carbon monoxide levels jumped to 210 ppm in a few seconds, the report said.