Wash. fire dept. evacuated due to asbestos

The asbestos was found while workers removed floor tiles as part of an ongoing renovation process

By Will Rubin
The Chronicle

CHEHALIS, Wash. — The Chehalis Fire Department's station was evacuated Friday and remains vacated after asbestos was found while workers removed floor tiles as part of an ongoing renovation process.

Per state Department of Labor and Industries Regulations, the fire department cannot use the station until it's deemed clean by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor.

Fire Chief Ken Cardinale relocated his department to the Lewis County Fire District 6 station at 2123 Jackson Highway southeast of Chehalis, where it will operate until it can move back into headquarters.

"The level of cleaning needed will be dependent on whether or not the asbestos fibers got airborne," Cardinale said. "We've been following L&I and Southwest Clean Air Agency regulations to the letter to ensure all employees and personnel are protected."

According to Cardinale, the asbestos testing company called in to assess the facility does not believe the method used to remove linoleum tiles from the floor would cause the type of asbestos underneath to go airborne.

That said, the testing company spent Friday testing every surface in the building for contamination. Results are expected early next week. If exposure is limited to flooring, the cleaning process may only take a few days.

Cardinale contacted Fire District 6 shortly after evacuating the building to makearrangements for his operation. Chehalis personnel will be using a District 6 reserve engine to respond to calls because all of their equipment and vehicles are unavailable pending the test results.

The Riverside Fire Authority lent the Chehalis crew some spare personal protective gear since that too had to stay behind.

Chehalis Fire normally staffs one engine on a given day, with the others used as reserve vehicles or as-needed, Cardinale said.

"The only change is that we're coming from a little further away than we normally would," he said. "Response times are a little longer to the west side, but our existing mutual aid agreements are in full effect."

Copyright 2018 The Chronicle

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