SYLVANIA TOWNSHIP, Ohio-- Firefighters risk their lives every day to serve and protect the people. Now a local fire department has closed a fire station, because the station itself may have been endangering the firefighters who work there.
The men and women of Sylvania Township Station 2, the one on Central Avenue near US 23/I-475 have had to move out of their station because of a problem with toxic mold.
If a call comes in, they'll still respond, but instead of living in the building, firefighters are sleeping in a camper parked in the station's parking lot. Mold was found growing in the living quarters of their station after several firefighters reported sinus problems.
Firefighter Robin Zaletta, who worked in Station 2 until January, says he had to have sinus surgery to correct his problems. "I had headaches, sinus pressure, that kind of thing," said Zaletta. "It was kind of a general illness. I just didn't feel right."
"When I had time off, the symptoms would go away. If you have a day off, you have five days away from the building," said Zaletta. "And with that time off, I felt better."
On Monday, another firefighters removed some ceiling tiles, and found mold. A leaky roof likely made conditions right for the mold to grow.
"We're going to still operate all of our responding units from this station," said Sylvania Township Fire Chief Tom Eisel. "We've got radios in the trailer now and we'll have a phone in there, so it's not going to affect our response at all."
In an emergency meeting, the Sylvania Township trustees ordered an assessment of the building to see the extent of the mold, and what it will take to get rid of it. They also decided to get the roof fixed. For now, the firefighters can use the bathroom inside and can get to their trucks and equipment, but other than that, they will have to stay out.
"Remediation may be possible at a reasonable cost," said Township Trustee Carol Contrada. "We may have to look at longer-term solutions, which we are looking at anyway as a board."
The department will also do an assessment at Station 1 in downtown Sylvania. It also apparently suffers from a leaky roof. No word on whether it's made any of the firefighters there sick.
Count on News 11 to follow this story as it develops.
Sylvania Township provides fire protection for both the township and the city of Sylvania. It has been the target of controversy in the past few months as trustees have tried to cut down a multi-million-dollar deficit.
At first, trustees discussed closing a fire station to make up the deficit, but public outcry made them change their minds and cut positions in the fire department instead. Trustees also cut the department's transport ambulance service.
According to the department's Annual Report that's posted on the Internet, the Sylvania Township Fire Department responded to 3,536 emergency incidents in 2005 from its four fire stations. Of all the calls the department got in 2005, 79% of them were emergency medical calls.
The department's long-time chief, Christopher Maurer, retired 3 weeks ago.
Republished with permission of WTOL-TV.