Fire Officials Knew About Asbestos Hazard

Newly discovered documents show that at least one Everett, Wash. fire official knew about the presence of dangerous asbestos in homes that the fire company was using to train their new firefighters.

According to an article in the Everett Herald, the Everett firefighters that trained in the old homes were also joined by a number of other companies from Snohomish County in using the homes for training. Those companies were also unaware of the dangers that awaited them in the old houses.

“Although city officials say they have since alerted two fire departments about concerns, some firefighters are raising questions about why they haven’t been notified that there was potential exposure,” notes the article, adding that it appears nothing was said to these departments until recently, even though the state Department of Labor and Industries revealed that Everett firefighters likely were exposed to asbestos when they trained in the houses in July, more than six months ago.

“Our first indication was when it broke in the news. We heard nothing of it, and still to this day, we haven’t received any official communication,” said Troy Smith, union president for firefighters in Snohomish County Fire District 7. “That to me is inexcusable.”

Furthermore, records show that on July 18, less than a week before Everett firefighters trained in the houses, a construction company told a captain with the Everett Fire Department that asbestos and lead paint needed to be removed before the houses could be used for training. The abatement wasn’t planned until after July 30 and the captain was told the training would have to be after that date, according to the minutes from a meeting that included representatives from the construction and engineering companies.

However, less than a week after that meeting, firefighters were training inside the houses in question. In the meantime, a consultant with the Department of Labor has deemed the exposure serious enough to suggest that those firefighters who performed training exercises inside the home be tested periodically for any sign of asbestos-related disease.

“The minutes of those meetings just came out. It was a big surprise to us. We’re very concerned about it. We’re still trying to investigate all the facts,” said Robert Downey, president of the Everett firefighters’ union. “We’ve been in those houses since May. We assumed everything was done and it was safe.”

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