Four Charleston firehouses infested by bed bugs

by nobugsonme on June 1, 2017 · 0 comments

in bed bugs, bed bugs in the workplace, Charleston, fire departments, South Carolina

Three Four Charleston, South Carolina firehouses have been infested with bed bugs– these include stations 7, 13 and 20 [as well as number 19 per the update below], as News 2 reports:

Due to employee concerns about the residual effects of the pesticides used, the department’s health and safety officer researched and located a mitigation effort that uses high heat to eradicate the pests. This effort was applied to Station 20 and a professional cleaning company was brought in to deep clean the station. Crews returned to Station 20 this week and a bug was located on Sunday. It has yet to be confirmed as a bedbug but the crew was relocated back to Station 18 as a precautionary measure.

Bedbugs were reported at Station 13 and then Station 7 this past week. A specially trained K-9 that detects bedbugs was brought in to search the buildings and “alerted” on a few of the mattresses and sofas at both stations. The items were removed from the station for disposal at Station 7 and some of the items were removed from Station 13. Crew concerns halted further furniture removal at Station 13 until the affected living areas can be treated.

There are some interesting points here.  First, we know that heat treatment is often not fully successful in eradicating bed bugs, and that many companies now back it up with dusts or residual chemical sprays, in order to kill any stragglers.

one of Charleston's firehouses

Image credit: Fire Department by Cliff Beckwith, Charleston Fire Department, used under a Creative Commons Attribution License

It’s also interesting that the companies are disposing of furniture from some firehouses, since heat treatment is often touted as a way to save furniture.

Another point worth highlighting is that k9 teams were used to inspect the firehouses — and as the article notes, the k9 teams will be checking every firehouse in the city.  Bed bug dogs can be very useful, but most experts we know think it’s important for handlers to verify alerts, and it’s not clear from the description whether this was the case here. (See our FAQ: Bed bug dogs: what you need to know for more on that). News 2 also highlighted how crews were being accommodated as their bed bug problem persists:

The crews from both stations [7 and 13] were relocated to two air-conditioned “Wester Shelters”, temporary structures frequently used by urban search and rescue teams and wildland fire teams for crew operations. The tents have been erected outside of Station 13 along with a portable shower and toilet facility to reduce the impact on emergency services coverage in the area. The interior kitchen space was isolated from the impacted living spaces based on recommendations from a professional pest control manager and the bedbug K-9 handler to provide the crews with access to essential laundry facilities, stove and refrigeration.

The article notes that crews were given information on how to avoid speeding the bed bugs to their homes.  Hopefully this was also something the crews were mindful of when moving from the affected firehouses to the unaffected locations (since Station 20 firefighters were lodging at unaffected Station 18, and those from Stations 7 and 13 were staying in tents).

You can also view  video on the News 2 Charleston, SC website.

Fox 24 in Charleston also has an interesting video here.

Update: it was announced today that another Charleston firehouse has now been found to have bed bugs– number 19.  According to WCSC,

In a statement sent out Thursday, The City of Charleston said a K9 found bed bugs on a couch at Station 19 on Bees Ferry Road after someone reported being bitten. Personnel there were relocated to Stations 12 and 16, both in West Ashley.

The article also noted that three more stations would be searched Friday, and that after consulting with Clemson University entomologist Dr. Eric Benson, bed bug mattress and box spring encasements and ClimbUp Interceptor bed bug monitors would now be employed by the fire department.

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