Friday, December 14, 2012
A bedbug infestation at a Northwest Washington fire station left firefighters
sleeping in their personal vehicles or in the firetrucks to avoid being bitten
by the bugs in their bunkrooms, a report on the conditions at D.C. firehouses
The 180-page report by the Office of the Inspector General details a wide
swath of problematic conditions at D.C. fire stations across the city, including
a lack of working smoke detectors, leaking roofs, flooded basements, rodent
infestations and inoperable heating or cooling systems. Among the findings, 19
stations had significant rodent problems with one reporting that dead mice had
been found in a refrigerator, seven did not have functional heating systems in
living quarters, 27 did not have fire extinguishers, and 22 reported that the
monitor that displays call information either was not working or was
Complicating matters is the fact that the department has no formal policy for
reporting and overseeing repairs.
The report says the inspection team “is concerned that this lack of policies
and procedures specific to the needs” of the department may delay repairs to the
At Engine Company 31 at 4930 Connecticut Ave. NW, employees told inspectors
that bedbugs had festered in the wooden floors of the bunkrooms for six months.
The report, which was issued to D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe on Nov. 29,
recommends the department invest in regular deep cleaning of facilities to
decrease bedbug and other pest problems. The inspector general’s office
estimates that the cost of the deep cleaning would be $100,000 annually.
A fire department spokesman was not familiar with the report and unable to
comment Thursday on its findings.
Problems detailed in the report were noted during inspections of 32 fire
stations and the department’s fireboat facility. Since the four months of
inspections ended in January, the department has taken action to abate some of
the problems, the report notes. A new pest control company has taken
responsibility for rodent extermination in firehouses. A $4.8 million renovation
of Engine Company 29 on MacArthur Boulevard Northwest, meant to address issues
with leaks in the building’s foundation that have left serious water damage in
the basement, began in October.
To prevent serious damage to fire stations in the future, the report
recommends a regular inspection schedule to look for things such as leaking
windows and roofs.
In response to questions about inspection schedules, department officials
wrote in October that several areas of maintenance, including roofs and bay
doors for the trucks and ambulances, are now undergoing preventative maintenance
and the department is working on prioritizing repairs.
The report notes that several of the serious problems have been ongoing for
years. Leaks in the roof of Engine Company 21 at 1763 Lanier Place NW have
forced firefighters to use trash cans to collect dripping water in their
bunkroom for more than two years, according to one complaint cited in the
The Department of General Services has taken over repairs and procurement
requests for the fire department. Fire officials wrote that the two agencies
communicate daily about repair requests. However, the report notes that
obtaining approval for requests can take several weeks to several months.
“Because of this delay, needed repairs to [department] facilities are not
completed in a timely manner,” the report states.
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