Firefighters forced to evacuate TI firehouse due to mold


The culprit in this case isn't fire -- it's mold. It's the same nasty black mold that ruins buildings and makes people sick. Firefighters there had complained they found some of it and when the city sent over investigators, they told them it wasn't safe for anyone to be here. Now there are questions about whether the city acted quickly enough.

Box after box of personal items and firefighting gear had to go. The locks are being changed, the beds were loaded into trucks and Fire Station 48 had to close.

"We just got the report yesterday that there's mold in a few of the downstairs rooms, and they recommend abating it, and to abate it, we need to get the members out of here," said San Francisco Fire Assistant Deputy Chief Ken Lombardi.

What was the one working fire station on Treasure Island is by no means a modern building. It was originally built by the Navy before San Francisco took control of the island.

"So we inherited that building basically, and moved in," said San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge.

The city also inherited this fire academy on the island, which will serve as the firehouse while Station 48 is cleaned up.

"They've only moved a couple of blocks away, we don't expect it to have any impact on response times," said Talmadge.

It's built of cinderblock, far different from Station 48's aging wood frame. Firefighters there say the building's been falling apart for years. They even started documenting their efforts to keep out rainwater, which is a primary cause of mold.

They shot some cellphone video of a tarp they put over a leaky window and a trench they dug, to keep water from getting in through the siding. Now, top-ranking fire officials are looking into it.

"Might have a couple leaky windows that might be casing it and there could be a leaky roof that might be causing it. So the exact nature of the nature is unknown until they open up these walls and find out what's going on," said Lombardi.

But firefighters who've lived here say they complained about the leaky roof years ago. One said he used to wake up in the middle of the night with headaches. Another said you could smell the mold. Administrators say none of those complaints ever reached them or they would've acted sooner.

"Health and safety to us is not worth playing around with. I mean, we're not going to keep our members someplace where they're going to get sick, that's just crazy," said Lombardi.

While mold is the culprit here, this is not the only cleanup underway on Treasure Island. The Navy left in 1997 and crews have been working to clean up toxic materials left behind, including more than 500 radioactive fragments that have been found in the past three years. The city has been sued over that. Now one firefighter says mold could mean another lawsuit is in the works.

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