A group of South Florida firefighters are expressing concerns over a moldy situation at their station that could be a health hazard while Miami-Dade County officials say they're going into action to fix the problem.
In an exclusive interview with NBC 6, Miami-Dade County firefighters discussed the major trouble with a temporary fire station near the Florida International University campus in Sweetwater. The station is so close to the campus the firefighters and paramedics were the first to respond when the bridge collapsed at FIU in March.
NBC 6 obtained images from inside a temporary trailer the firefighters have been operating out of since their long-time station on 107th Avenue in Sweetwater had to be torn down to make way for the widening of the street there.
The pictures show mushrooms growing through the tiles in the floor, and black mold is also seen under the tiles. In addition to the images, NBC 6 obtained a county document indicating the firefighters had reported to the county a strong sewer smell and mold problems over the past several months.
One firefighter in jest posted on social media: "If anyone would like to come by and see our beautiful station, you are in luck. the kitty is now carrying special suits and respirators."
"At one point there was like a plumbing issue where the water was not going down the proper passage and I think collectively that started to smell," fire union president Omar Blanco said.
On Friday, as the county was graduating its newest firefighters, Blanco said that heaven and earth are being moved to get the situation fixed.
"That's first and foremost. If they’re not healthy then they can’t serve the community," Blanco said.
Blanco said the fire department was alerted of the problem and experts are now out on the scene.
"I think the department and the local together working in our members' best interest and their health were able to identify what the mold issue is, and we are continuing to work around the clock until we do it,” Blanco said.
The union went into its own funds to furnish two RVs a week ago so the firefighters on duty limit any time in the temporary station trailer.
With fanfare the county announced that a new station would go up where the old one had to come down. But then came the trouble the firemen and women were reporting.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz went to see it for himself and said the situation won't be tolerated.
"I saw a lot of mildew," Diaz said. "The contractor has been hired to look at and mitigate every problem that can be there with mildew. As soon as we address it we mitigate the situation and we find a way to make sure that they’re safe, that’s what we need to do. Things do happen. As long as we address it, were good with it."
Some firefighters said that another option is having them simply work out of other brick and mortar standard fire stations. The fire department said the experts have been out there since Monday to get the situation resolved.
When it comes to the new fire station being up, that’s two years away.