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Language Barrier Leads To Miscommunication In Marshalltown Carbon Monoxide Incident

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MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa -- Marshalltown Fire Chief David Rierson admits he made a mistake Monday.  "Actually a little bit embarrassed," he said.  As the community had been mourning what they believed to be a death declared by Rierson after a carbon monoxide incident Sunday , they found out Wednesday all fifteen residents inside the church on East South Street were alive and one did not die.  Rierson said, "I am absolutely relieved nobody died in that incident."  No deaths, but nobody was supposed to be operating in the building that has been vacant since 2011.  The group was supposed to be inquiring about purchasing the building.  "The problem became when they decided to hold a church service there and the running of the generator and all the extension cables and lighting because there was no electric or gas service to the building," Rierson said.

Multiple signs have deemed this church unsafe for months. While the fire chief isn't making excuses for the group who was using this building he says they may not have understood it because it's in english.  "I would say that a language barrier and knowledge of what is going on in the city, yes that played a role," said Rierson.

Thankfully it was not a deadly lesson, but it is one that will motivate the city.  "We will take this incident and reach out to the members of the Hispanic community through interpreters and see what we can do to spread more knowledge and awareness to what the codes are," Rierson said.

Given the circumstances, the miscommunication and language barrier, the fire department does not believe the group operating the church will be cited for code violations.