Charleston's station 6 firefighters relocated during asbestos scare

An abatement crew was at station 6 Thursday after an asbestos scare. DHEC testing later revealed there was no asbestos, according to city fire department leaders. (John Gaddy/WCIV)

By Natalie

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Thursday an abatement crew was suited up at station 6, wearing protective gear. The firefighters had been cleared out after an asbestos scare.

"On Wednesday afternoon crews were doing some renovations on Fire Station 6 in the day room. Tile was being removed and they uncovered some dust particles. Out of abundance of caution, the city and the fire department removed the crew from the station, relocated them to station 15 and closed the station," Charleston Fire Department Public Information Officer Mark Ruppel said.

The firefighters were required to leave their gear and their engine at the station in case they came in contact with asbestos. Thursday afternoon though, fire department officials say the Department of Health and Environmental Control's (DHEC) test results for asbestos came back negative.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exposure to asbestos can lead to cancer and other asbestos-related diseases, which may not appear until after years of exposure, according to the EPA.

Despite the outcome, Ruppel says the firefighters will remain at the other station on Coming Street while construction continues so they aren't in a dusty environment.

"Station 15 is right down the street from station 6 so the response will not be affected," he said.

While station 6 was cleared by DHEC of any asbestos hazards, the city has dealt with asbestos and mold issues recently at other stations.

"There was a mold issue in the kitchen in station 2. It was reported immediately. The city came in and rectified the problem. The city safety officer says the mold issue is taken care of," Ruppel said.

Some firefighters, though, still questioned the issue due to claims of strange smells, which city officials say they will further investigate.

On the Heriot Street station, the firefighters were moved into a trailer because of mold and asbestos issues. The city recently approved a new headquarters building which will replace it. It's set to be completed in 2014.

"Most of our stations on the peninsula are historic and old so we are going to have issues with any historical structures we've had for many, many years and again, immediately, if something is reported to the administration or the fire department, it's looked into immediately," Ruppel said.

Charleston Firefighter Association president TJ Brennan says they're concerned about possible mold issue at two of the stations.

"As far as the mold, we would love for them [the city] to provide air quality samples and mold abatement in stations like Central and Coming Street stations, considering the fact that heavy amounts of dark mold spores are visible on walls, around air vents and is suspected to be sitting beneath "bubbling" paint and void spaces in and around fire station kitchens and sleeping quarters," Brennan said.


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