Breaking the mold @ BA fire station

Thursday, April 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A breaking the mold follow-up to a KOTV exclusive about firefighters in Broken Arrow, who say their 2nd home is making them sick. KOTV Tami Marler has been keeping up with the story.

Broken Arrow firefighters have already battled at least two building fires Wednesday; they're in a battle with their employer, the city of Broken Arrow. Fire Chief Ron Osborne, "He approved it. It went to city council; it was approved. It went out for bid, the contract has been awarded and the roofers are just waiting on the weather. That work should start in the next few days." That was more than a month ago. Broken Arrow has gone about 28 days without rain, but the roof is still not fixed.

In response to firefighter health complaints ranging from recurring respiratory problems to hair loss, the City of Broken Arrow hired Jeff Jenkins to test its Central fire station for mold." The information we have at this point doesn't show that bacteria is in the station." Chief Osborne calls it bacteria, but the issue is stachybotrys, a "mold" that has shutdown schools and public buildings across the nation. In a news release days after Jenkins' study, the city stated that there was no immediate danger to firefighters; and emphasized no evacuation of the facility was necessary. But the actual report states the station definitely has needs that must be addressed, and once remediation begins, firefighters should be moved.

The Jenkins report and the city news release were both careful to point out that stachybotrys were not found in the living area. But shadowing Jenkins' tour of the building, firefighters took their own samples, and had them tested at the University of Tulsa by Doctor Estelle Levetin. "The samples I looked at that the firefighters brought in, did show stacybotrys 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 this report from the University of Tulsa, stacybotrys is at Broken Arrow's Central Station, in two stairwells at opposite ends of the building. "So I'd want air sampling in a situation where you had stachybotrys, penicillium, aspergillus on tape samples." But the request to move firefighters, and the request for further sampling have been denied by city officials, who continue to insist they are taking care of Broken Arrow's firefighters.

According to Doctor Levetin, some of the methods employed by the city's expert are out-dated; and more modern testing should be done. The city says it stands by the report. Firefighters tell us they fear for their jobs because of the information they've given KOTV about the Central Station's mold problems.