City, fire dept. won’t face fines for exposing firefighters to asbestos

An investigation revealed that 27 articles of gear contained high levels of asbestos

By FireRescue1 Staff

ORLANDO, Fla. — After firefighters were exposed to asbestos during a training exercise earlier this year, the city of Orlando and the fire department will not face any fines.

Officials chose not to impose any penalties for the incident, which could have cost the city and fire department $25,000 per violation. 

However, department officials must create and take part in a mandatory asbestos training program for all department staff, which must be completed by November, reported

Orlando Deputy Fire Chief Gerald Lane said the incident “has improved the communications between the fire department and the Environmental Protection District and helped us understand our obligations.”

The training program will entail asbestos notification, removal requirements and regulations regarding burn training.

The incident, which occurred in February, involved more than a dozen firefighters who were preparing an abandoned apartment building for a training drill. Firefighter Anthony Donohoe said crews were removing old asbestos floor tiles without wearing protective suits or respirators, as required by law. 

Although supervisors obtained a pre-demolition survey that stated there was asbestos in the building, firefighters were instructed to remove the tiles. After recognizing the danger, one firefighter contacted WFTV to bring attention to the issue. 

EPD officials tested 93 pieces of gear and found 27 pieces of equipment had high levels of asbestos contamination. WFTV reported that a pair of pants may have been exposed to 72 times the amount of asbestos.

Following suit, the city secured the site and submitted an asbestos survey of the building and filed a notice with the EPD. They later hired a contractor to properly remove the asbestos. 

Although the department will remain active in preparing for asbestos incidents, Chief Lane stated that “it does not provide a shield for the Orlando Fire Department for any potential litigation given the asbestos-related illnesses that some firefighters may have suffered.”

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