Marcus Cedar Creek Theater Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Leak

A theater carbon monoxide leak on Sunday resulted in the evacuation of a Marcus Theater in the Wausau, Wisconsin area. 683 PPM of carbon monoxide was found in the theater where the movie Scream Six was playing.

By Rebecca Martin

Reality resembled the horror film on the screen last night at a Marcus Theater in Rothschild Wisconsin. While playing the movie Scream Six, patrons began to pass out. According to Riverside Fire Chief, Rob Bowen,  the theater was evacuated because of the carbon monoxide leak around 5:24p.m., Sunday, March 12, 2023.  Levels as high as 683 ppm were found in ambient air of the theater.

The theater carbon monoxide leak was likely called in by a patron. Local EMT’s treated five on the scene and four were transported. The theatre was being evacuated when the Riverside Fire Department arrived. To Chief Bowen’s knowledge no carbon monoxide detectors were sounding on his department’s arrival although he couldn’t confirm there were none on site.

Readings in Theater 1 were 683, and 45-90 in the other theaters.

The HVAC system was the suspected culprit. Responders checked the roof to see if any blockage existed and found none. A service technician was called and the Fire Department was told that  theater would be closed until Marcus had identified and repaired the carbon monoxide leak.

According to Chief Bowen, there is no ongoing investigation to his knowledge.

The four transported were transported to local hospital he believed. 

683 ppm is a very high reading for carbon monoxide. Standard residential alarms are meant to alarm at levels above 70 ppm and must alarm within as short as five minutes when levels get above 40o ppm. 683 could have been deadly.

This is not the first carbon monoxide leak in a Wisconsin theater. In February 2015, 30 people in a theater in Park Falls, Wisconsin were evacuated because of carbon monoxide leak. See the The irony of the Park Falls story is that more people were poisoned because the theater had recently updated its digital projection equipment. But maintenance of commercial real estate must be more than skin deep. HVAC systems, especially in buildings that are more than 20 years old must be addressed. Annual maintenance from professional HVAC maintenance personnel is important. If a furnace or boiler is more than 20 years old, replacement must be considered.

While it is fortunate that no one died in either of these carbon monoxide leaks, the risk factor with any carbon monoxide poisoning in survivors is permanent brain damage. The brain is particularly vulnerable to interruption in its oxygen supply and the secondary aspects of carbon monoxide poisoning can occur days and weeks after the event. If you were in this theater during this event and you feel unwell, even if it is days later when you read this, it is imperative that you seek medical attention. For more on brain damage after carbon monoxide poisoning, click here.

This event reminds us why carbon monoxide detectors must be in all commercial buildings. An exposure to 683 ppm can be deadly in less time than a movie lasts. If a single patron had passed out without someone else to call for help, that person likely would have died.



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