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Repairs to solve fire station mold problems

In the meantime, a manufactured home will house Station 76 firefighters
by: John Klicker, Capt. Cindy Thompson-Baird waits for the 14-by-66 foot manufactured home to arrive at Fire Station 76 on Friday.

It's moving day, the first of many, at Gresham's Fire Station 76.

More than a month after experts collected mold and air samples from the 40-year-old building, firefighters are moving into a singlewide manufactured home while contractors repair the building.

Tests conducted on Feb. 20 by Succeed Safety and Health Services of Wilsonville revealed 'total fungal concentrations' of 3.6 to 17 times higher than those found in outside air. The most significant included elevated levels of Penicillium and Aspergillus versicolor. Both are considered some of the most common indoor molds found in the United States, according to the New York Department of Health. Spores from both are known to cause allergic reactions as well as respiratory diseases.

The company didn't deem the fire station a health hazard - 'medical opinion is always necessary to determine if adverse health effects are present and are caused by exposure to microorganisms,' reads a March 20 industrial hygiene report, which recommended those working there wear respirators, as well as the following repairs:

• Moving and fixing ventilation ducts, cleaning the ventilation system,

• repairing roof leak, including a possibly rotting wooden roof beam,

• and removing and replacing moldy or water-damaged building materials such as walls and carpet.

Now, crews are moving into a manufactured home that arrived Friday, March 30.

'We're all looking forward to getting something a little more stable,' said Capt. Cindy Thompson-Baird, whose mold-covered pillowcase, teamed with health complaints, caused Gresham officials to call in the mold testers on Feb. 20.

Firefighters complained of everything from itchy eyes to respiratory problems.

Since then, firefighters have been sleeping in a travel trailer parked in the station's parking lot. As for work conducted during their 24-hour shifts, that took place in another parking lot trailer, this one a mobile command trailer borrowed from the Multnomah County Department of Emergency Management.

Thompson-Baird said the manufactured home would provide a single roof for both functions. 'No more bunks,' she said. And no more fumbling in the night for boots and stumbling to the command trailer while responding to fire and medical calls, she said.

The 14-by-66-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom home also provides a kitchen. Firefighters have been making do without one and were forced to eat out, Thompson-Baird said.

Gresham paid $150 for the manufactured home, which the Portland Fire Bureau used as a temporary fire station a few years ago when repairs to the St. Johns Bridge made it impossible for area firefighters to quickly reach citizens, said Laura Bridges-Shepard, city spokeswoman. The structure was considered government surplus by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

It could take up to a week to level the structure and connect power, phone and computer lines. Setting up and moving costs are estimated to reach about $3,400, Bridges-Shepard said.

Multnomah County Rural Fire Protection District 10 owns Fire Station 76, at Southeast 302nd Avenue and Dodge Park Boulevard. The district contracts with Gresham Fire and Emergency Services for fire protection and emergency medical service.

Officials from both entities will share the expense, estimated to be $40,000 to $60,000, and are still deciding who will pay for what, said Mike McKeel, chairman of the Fire District 10 board.

The repairs should take one to two months.