Firefighters Forced Out by Bed Bugs

The bed bug infestation is the latest in a string of outbreaks affecting local firefighters

By Nicole Gonzales
|  Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011  |  Updated 7:56 AM PDT
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An infestation of bed bugs actually closed a San Diego fire station. Nicole Gonzales reports

An infestation of bed bugs actually closed a San Diego fire station. Nicole Gonzales reports

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Bed bugs shut down a San Diego fire station for a night, sending firefighters to nearby hotels or other stations while fumigators handled the problem.

“It’s awful. It’s exhausting. But we have to do it,” said Capt. Piper Denlinger with San Diego Fire and Rescue. “We don’t want to be transferring bug beds to someone else”

Inside Station 29, there were empty lockers, bags of gear and uncovered mattresses.

“In addition to disinfecting the actual station itself and the beds, we have to disinfect all the apparatus, all of our gear, that includes the turn outs we wear to fires so it makes for a lot of work,” says Denlinger.

The San Diego Fire Department has spent $80,000 in the last budget cycle eradicating the pest. Last October, the number of cases skyrocketed and so did the costs.

“We’ve had to move personnel from two different fire stations and rent some hotel space for people to sleep in certain locales adjacent to the fire stations they’ve moved to. We also incur a cost for cleaning,” says Asst. Chief Jeff Carle.

Officials are trying to prevent bug transfers from happening, but it’s difficult.

“Folks are being more careful about where they kneel, where they set down equipment and about the cleanliness of that equipment,” said Carle. “They’re taking appropriate steps to prevent that contamination.”

Carle is hoping to get San Diego County Health Department involved to get at the source of the problem.

Station 29 crews should be able to move back into the station Wednesday morning.

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