Jim Willis, chief of the Bar Harbor and Mount Desert police departments. Willis said that carbon monoxide detectors placed into Ford Explorer police vehicles have detected low levels of the odorless but toxic gas. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Gas risk prompts cruiser monitors

With a federal probe into carbon monoxide leaking into the interior of Ford Explorers, Mount Desert Island’s three police departments have taken steps to protect officers from the risk of being poisoned by the odorless gas.

Chief Jim Willis of the Bar Harbor and Mount Desert police departments said Monday that carbon monoxide (CO) detectors were installed in the two departments’ six Ford Explorers sometime in the winter. The action was in response to early reports about the problem.

In Southwest Harbor, Chief Alan Brown said his officers have been informed of the potential issues with the department’s two Ford Explorers. He said CO detectors have not been installed but will be shortly.

The Ford Explorer has become one of the most popular vehicles for use by police departments nationwide. Last week, the U.S. National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration announced it was expanding its investigation into 1.33 million Ford Explorers after receiving complaints about exhaust smells and CO. Recently, the city of Austin, Texas, pulled all 400 of its Ford Explorers out of service after a half dozen officers reportedly fell ill with symptoms of CO poisoning.

Willis said the monitors his departments installed were purchased at a local hardware store and are the battery-powered types used in homes. In some of the cruisers, the alarms have sounded.

“Some do have some low levels [of carbon monoxide],” Willis said.

It is uncertain if the problem affects only the police version of the Explorer. One theory is that holes drilled to mount special equipment on the police version are allowing exhaust gases to leak into the interior. Ford Motor Company has said it would repair any issues found in police vehicles.

Willis said he has been in contact with a factory service person about the problems. Ford is expected to test the Explorers for leaks, he said.


Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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