2 men die in Sonoma County while using gas generator during storms

Two men have died in Sonoma County during the storms while using a gas-powered generator in their home, the sheriff's office said.

Gene Beauchamp, 71, of Colusa and Phil Mabray, 71, of Biggs, were found dead Wednesday about 11:30 a.m. on the 300 block of Spinnaker Close in Sea Ranch, a remote area an hour north of Jenner, according to Deputy Rob Dillion.

The two were found in separate bedrooms, with a generator in the hallway. The power switch was turned on and the fuel tank was empty, Dillion said, adding that the home smelled like gas exhaust. 

"You could say that their deaths were related to the storm," Dillion said.  

A tree crew had found the pair when they arrived at the house to remove a tree that had previously fallen on their skylight, Dillion said.

It's not immediately clear if the fallen tree knocked out power at the home.

A coroner will try to determine if the fumes from the generator or some other cause killed the men. 

Dillion said that power frequently goes out in this area, and this week, more than 100,000 PG&E customers have been in the dark because of power outages and downed utility lines throughout the Bay Area.

It's dangerous to operate a generator inside a building because they release noxious fumes that can result in carbon monoxide poisoning and death. 

Generators, he said, should be operated outside and at least 20 feet away from occupied buildings.

The men comprise at least 20 people who have died since Dec. 27 when heavy rains began pummeling California. 

At this point, at least five people have died in Sonoma County, including a 2-year-old after a redwood tree fell on his home, a Ukiah woman who was found submerged in her car in Forestville and a PG&E employee clearing trees.