The firefighters were relocated from their fire station with just the clothes on their backs, as they had to leave everything at the fire station including their bunker gear and even the fire engine, to reduce the risk of exposure to the firefighters and the public. Charleston Firefighters Association President TJ Brennan, then called South Carolina OSHA, DHEC and IAFF Headquarters in Washington, DC to brief them all on the situation and ask for assistance. President Brennan requested DHEC run tests on the fire station and DHEC stated that results from the initial tests they ran came back negative for asbestos. However, as a precaution the firefighters will remain at the Coming Street Fire Station until all work is completed and cleaned up.
This is also not the first time that the Cannon Street Fire Station has been closed due to building safety issues, at one point the fire station was in such disrepair due to poor maintenance and termite damage that it was actually condemned. Firefighters at the Cannon Street Fire Station have also had to deal with bat infestations, mold, asbestos, termites, and broken sewage lines.
Fire stations in the City of Charleston Fire Department have had mold, asbestos, termite, bat infestation and other issues several times before and since, including ongoing mold issues at the Coming Street Fire House and Central Station (located at Meeting St. & Wentworth St., Downtown), as well as many more fire stations throughout the city. One engine company, Engine 9, (located at King St. & Heriot St., in the neck of the Peninsula) has been living in a trailer for the past 5 years after their fire station was condemned due to mold and asbestos issues. It wasn't until recently that anything was done to work on getting that company a new fire station, it's expected to be completed sometime in 2014, with groundbreaking potentially happening later this year.
While in this instance the issue was handled quickly, thanks to the action and the persistence of the Charleston Firefighters Association, it's not uncommon for Charleston Firefighters and the Charleston Firefighters Association, which represents them, to run into roadblock after roadblock when dealing with the city and even their own administration, when attempting to get these health and safety issues dealt with properly and in a timely manner. Often times firefighters are told that there's 'no money in the budget' for the type of renovations or repairs that are needed to remedy the problem or they are told that if they don't like the conditions of the fire station that they can transfer from the affected fire station and other firefighters will be brought in to work in their place.
The Charleston Firefighters Association continues on in our efforts to work with the CFD Administration and the City to develop an appropriate and responsible plan and budget to be able to make all the necessary repairs and renovations, as well as provide the proper maintenance and inspections that are needed to ensure that the firefighters who are sworn to protect the City of Charleston and it's citizens, have a safe, healthy and comfortable working environment. Our fire stations are not only a place of work and a second home for our firefighters, but they are places where our community and visitors to our community come together and we want to make sure that when you and your family visit our fire stations, that they provide a safe and healthy environment.
ABC News 4's Natalie Caula reported on this story: