WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) – Woonsocket firefighters are facing a different battle: bed bugs.
According to Fire Chief Paul Shatraw, the problem was discovered Wednesday when a firefighter complained of a rash and went to the hospital to get checked out. Hospital staff determined the rash was caused by bed bug bites.
An inspection of Station Three, located on North Main Street, uncovered “bed bug activity.”
The department then immediately contacted a pest control company. All bedding and the contents of firefighter’s lockers, including spare uniforms, were bagged and taken out of the station. Turnout gear is in the process of being cleaned as well.
During the cleaning process, all firefighters and firefighting equipment was relocated to a secondary location where the department stores HAZMAT equipment. There has been no disruption in fire response service.
The department says the pest control company is scheduled to return within the next few days to follow up and to ensure all bed bugs have been exterminated. The company will perform a total of three checks before declaring the station completely clear. It’s unknown at this time how long the process will take.
Shatraw says it’s impossible to know exactly how the bed bugs got into the station in the first place as firefighters spend time all over the city performing thousands of runs each year. It is an issue he says is a growing one as emergency responders frequently enter people’s homes while on calls.