San Diego firefighters have to combat a new foe -- Bed Bugs. Exterminators were on hand on Monday to rid fire station No.1 of the pesky insects.
Firefighters noticed the bugs on Sunday and immediately called for a pest control specialist, officials said.
The 15 firefighters who would normally be sleeping here tonight are having to find other arrangements, as exterminators will have to spend the next 12 to 14 hours taking care of the problem.
Because fire station one is so large - they're unable to tent it, making the operation even more meticulous.
The department said they wanted to get a handle on the problem, because the firefighters routinely go to other stations and they don't want the problem to spread.
"Bedbugs are a traveling pest," said Sam Eram, a regional service manager for Terminix. "They latch onto people, that's their way of traveling from place to place."
Firefighters frequently travel in and out of various public and private areas.
"A lot of places that we encounter have them, we take a lot of gear inside, we set that gear on the floor and bed and inevitably we bring them home with us," said SDFD Deputy Fire Chief Lorraine Hutchinson.
The fire department has already shelled out 46-thousand dollars in exterminator fees and this job is expected to be the most expensive yet - so fire officials are being forced to take a good hard look at how they can minimize and prevent the problem from continuing.
This is the seventh city station to become infested since July and a sign of a growing problem in all areas of the county
Terminix in San Diego County has seen the numbers of calls about bedbugs increase 25 fold. "We might have gotten 1 call per week, now we get 25 calls each week, Eram said.
You see bedbugs in transient areas, or wherever there are lots of people moving about like hotels, cruise ships, and airplanes, said Terminix Spokesman Chad Gilbert.
Bedbugs are about the size of a melon seed, says Eram. If you are traveling Terminix suggests doing the following:
- Check headboards, mattresses and box springs for bedbugs and the dark blood spots they leave behind.
- Hang all clothing. Leave nothing lying on the bed or furniture.
- Avoid unpacking clothing and storing your clothing in the hotel’s furniture drawers.
- Store baggage on a luggage rack as far from the bed as possible.
- Vacuum suitcases when returning, and immediately wash clothing in hot water.
Traveling is only one reason for the recent bedbug infestation in the United States, people who don't travel often, can protect themselves too. Gilbert suggests homeowners keep a close eye out using these tips:
- Inspect furniture, antiques, used appliances or consignment items for signs of bedbugs before bringing them into the home.
- Never pick up used mattresses or furniture left curbside.
- Inspect clothing for bedbugs and wash (in hot water) new items in hot water after bringing them into the house.
- Use zippered encasements on infested mattresses and box springs.
- If you suspect you have bedbugs, have your home inspected by a trained professional. Bedbugs cannot be controlled by over-the-counter treatments.
There is no documented history of bedbugs spreading disease, Gilbert said, "but they are a nuisance."
"It is just one of those things," Gilbert said, "and it is a growing problem."
Bedbugs were almost eradicated from the United States following World War II, Gilbert says, but increasing international travel and other factors have allowed these pests to regain a foothold in the United States.