Study finds health and safety deficiencies in Mo. fire stations
Officials noted the lack of ventilation, sprinkler systems and adequate space to clean equipment
By Erik Cliburn
MOBERLY, Mo. — An assessment conducted by Kansas City-based architecture company highlights a number of firefighter health and safety deficiencies in both Moberly fire stations.
A special meeting for the Moberly City Council was held early Wednesday afternoon at Moberly Fire Station 1. The meeting mainly consisted of a presentation by Rick Kuhl, of Williams Spurgeon Kuhl and Freshnock Architects, Inc., who conducted the study on the city's fire stations.
Kuhl's presentation outlined problems the department's safety and wellness practices, code non-compliance and operational deficiencies in both of the city's fire stations. The city's top priority should be rectifying the issues in the stations, which could cause health and safety concerns, specifically the lack of ventilation, sprinkler systems or adequate space to clean equipment, Kuhl said. "I would say that Moberly is really behind the curb on that," he said.
Kuhl cited increasing cancer rates, specifically cancer in the throat and groin, among firefighters are often caused by toxic particles brought back on equipment from combustible substances.
"There is a high incidence of cancer among firefighters," Kuhl said. "A lot of the indicators suggest it's associated with... the apparatus bay and the events firefighters go to."
He also mentioned the possible health problems firefighters can experience from the exhaust fumes of fire engines. That issue could be solved by improved ventilation throughout both facilities, Kuhl said.
The presentation also recommended the installation of sprinkler systems in both fire stations. While the lack of sprinkler systems is not unique to the fire department, Kuhl pointed out the irony of fire department not having it. "When those fire suppression requirements come into play in the codes... you're requiring folks to install systems where your own fire department doesn't have it," Kuhl said.
Kuhl's presentation also noted some operational issues like inadequate office space, security and storage.
As with many municipal projects, fixing these issues will not be cheap. Kuhl estimated that the recommended remodeling and repairs could cost approximately $1.5 million. Kuhl said there is federal grant funding available to help pay for some of the recommendations.
The city and the fire department will work together over the next several months to develop a priority list for both stations, City Manager Brian Crane said.
"We'll try to come up with cost estimates and our long-term plan," Crane said. "So we'll be ready in our 2020 budget year. This winter we'll spend going through that, working with the fire department and their staff to come up with what they think is the most important."
The city will seek some outside funding for the renovations and repairs, either through grants or loans, Crane said.
Though the prioritization process is still in its infancy, Crane said one of the top concerns will be to address any health and safety issues in the stations.
"We'll go through the reports and try to prioritize," Crane said. "Obviously, health and safety are big priorities for us."
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