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Potential mold problem prompts hasty closure of Seattle fire station

Out of concern for firefighters, Seattle Fire Station 31 was closed temporarily as further environmental testing is done.

Seattle Fire Station 31 is temporarily closed after testing found a possible mold problem in the building. 

Fire Station 31 has a reputation among those in the department. A large number of firefighters who have served here have reportedly become sick with cancer or other diseases. 

The Fire Fighter’s Union, Local 27, paid for the testing because of concern that “this has never been resolved,” Union President Kenny Stuart explained.

The union took the findings of possible mycotoxins - a biproduct of some molds - to Mayor Jenny Durkan and Fire Chief Harold Scoggins who decided to temporarily relocate Station 31 personnel as a precaution.

Scoggins expressed concern about response times during the relocation, but says that he and the department are carefully paying attention to how long it takes crews to get to a scene. 

The Mayor's Office and Seattle Fire Department released a joint statement on the matter, saying firefighters have a "dangerous job," including exposure to chemicals, toxins, and carcinogens released by fires that can reduce quality of life and life expectancy. 

An industrial hygiene company is now testing for the presence of toxins. Stuart said the city acted “appropriately and immediately.”

Though some of the firefighters who served there have been sickened with cancer, firefighters in general have higher cancer rates than the rest of the population because of the large number of toxins they are exposed to. The problem is so bad at Station 31 some have nicknamed it “cancer house.”

Stuart said he was not aware of any current members of the department who are sick, most are retired or dead. 

“There’s definite frustration with members of the department - not with the city or the fire department - just frustration about getting answers,” he explained.

Testing began on June 18 and will include a combination of surface and air sampling.

In 2018, the department began a partnership with the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center to research firefighter cancer rates for current and retired firefighters who have worked at that station.

The city has conducted environmental testing of the station five times in 15 years, according to the joint statement from the Mayor's Office and fire department. 

"The last thing we want is to have a workspace that causes them [the firefighters] harm when they come in to serve the community," Scoggins said. 

See the entire press conference below.