Mold Shuts Down Broken Arrow Fire Station

Wednesday, June 3rd 2015, 11:35 pm
By: News On 6

A Broken Arrow fire station has shut down because of mold growing inside the station's walls.

It closed last week and tests are now being run to determine what type of mold is growing, and if it could be hazardous to firefighter's health.

One retired firefighter said it's not the first time mold's been found inside Station 1.

Retired firefighter Aaron Burns spent the majority of his career at the station and believes mold found back then made him and other's sick. Now he's worried about the health of firefighters recently working out of Station 1.

Sandbags still sit outside Broken Arrow's Central fire station, left over from last week's heavy rain that flooded the station.

When crews cleaned up the water, they found mold inside the station's walls.

"It's not a new issue. This is 15 years now," Burns said. "The living conditions were horrible, and guys would complain about it."

News On 6 covered a story back in 2001 where mold was found in Station 1 and firefighters' health complaints ranged from recurring respiratory problems to hair loss.

"We expect smoke, and chemicals and other hazardous materials when we go out to a fire, but we don't expect to live in a hazardous material place," he said.

Burns said back then, firefighters had bloody noses and other health problems, they felt was caused by mold. Burns said they were told the mold was gone after an in-ground ventilation system was filled with cement.

"Even when they did what they did, the firefighters and union weren't satisfied, but it was like, 'Ok, if you aren't happy with what they did we will send you to a different station," Burns said.

More than a decade later the mold is back and Burns fears it never really left.

"You live a third of your life there and some guys 35 years, so they spent 12 years in this condition," he said.

Broken Arrow's new fire chief, Jeremy Moore, said he is aware of the on-going mold issues but isn't exactly sure what was done to rid the station of the mold in the past. However, he won't let firefighters return until it's gone.

"Our highest level of concern is for the health of our firefighters. We are going to do everything we can, and we won't put them back in the station before we confirm it's a healthy environment inside station one," he said.

Moore said there will be a delay in response time because of Station 1 being closed. Typically, about five to six people work out of the station. Firefighters said, in the past, there were as many as 16 working at the Central Fire Station.

Moore said he isn't sure when test results will be back, but he's working with the city's Risk Management Department to figure out what needs to be done to prevent future flooding at the station if, and when, it's re-opened.

When mold was discovered in 2001, the City of Broken Arrow hired Jeff Jenkins to test its Central Fire Station.

After the study was completed back then, the city stated that there was no immediate danger to firefighters and emphasized no evacuation of the facility was necessary. However, firefighters took their own samples and had them tested at the University of Tulsa by Dr. Estelle Levetin.

At the time she said, "The samples I looked at that the firefighters brought in, did show Stachybotrys or 'black mold' in two areas. From the type of sample it was just what we call a surface sample or tape sample, I have no idea of the degree of contamination, only its presence."

According to the 2001 report from the University of Tulsa, Stachybotrys was at Broken Arrow's Central Station, in two stairwells at opposite ends of the building. Stachybotrys is a toxic mold that doctors say can cause everything from headaches to cancer.

Despite the results of the University of Tulsa study in 2001, city officials denied the request to move firefighters and also denied their request for further sampling.