Jacob Lonnie Wimmer was attending a birthday party at the River Ridge Taphouse in the village of Clemmons in North Carolina when he realized something was not right.
He observed some people around him were showing symptoms of being sick.
“People were starting to act a little weird,” Wimmer told Fox 8. “Heads hurting, people holding their belly, going to the bathroom a lot.”
Wimmer, who has been working as a firefighter in neighboring Lewisville for two years, was trained to decipher the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
He immediately realized that the diners were suffering from the effects of a possible carbon monoxide leak.
The off-duty firefighter called the fire department right away and alerted them towards the situation.
Several ambulances were sent to the restaurant and all the patrons were evacuated. Almost 30 people had signs of poisoning caused by the deadly gas, with at least 16 transported to local hospitals.
Carbon monoxide, also known as the “silent killer” is a colorless, odorless gas that is slightly dense than air. It is found in fumes produced by burning fuel.
It turned out later that the leak was a result of the restaurant’s defective heating unit, which caused the gas levels to increase by more than five times of what is known as a healthy level.
Carbon monoxide detectors were not installed inside the restaurant.
Inhaling the gas excessively can lead to death. The situation could have been worse had it not been for Wimmer.
Lewisville Fire Department’s Assistant Chief Steve Williams said that the situation had a “far better outcome” because of him.
“Even though it was a fairly large incident, I think Wimmer’s early recognition prevented it from being more serious than it could have been for those exposed to the carbon monoxide,” he said.
“Who knows when it would have been discovered had he not been there and recognized the symptoms?” he added.
The LFD chief confirmed that people who were treated are fine now.
Soon after the incident, the restaurant installed carbon monoxide detectors and had their heating unit was repaired.
The restaurant’s manager Dawn Vanorden confirmed that it was repaired on Saturday, and the restaurant re-opened on Sunday.
The LFD hailed the quick-thinking firefighter as a hero.
Great job Firefighter Jacob Wimmer!! https://t.co/tGqhfiwhea— Lewisville Fire Dept (@LewisvilleFD) December 12, 2016
As for Wimmer he is happy with the fact that he was able to save lives.
“I was happy that we were there, that we were able to get everybody out,” he commented. “If we went there another day or it was another party, someone could've gotten sleepy, went home, went to sleep - and never could've woken up.”