Fire Station Battles Bedbug Infestation

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A fire station in Des Moines has been dealing with bedbugs.

They are usually called on to put out a blaze in a burning building, but at station number 4, firefighters had to call in for help to stamp out a little problem of their own.

"One of the firefighters found what he thought was a bedbug. He put it in a bag," said Fire Captain Steve Brown.

Firefighters brought in an expert, a bedbug dog to sniff them out.

"They found them in the captain's office, two chairs, in a bedroom, four mattresses and stools in the day room," said Brown.

Firefighters work a 24-hour shift, practically living at the station, and sleeping in beds others may share on other shifts. They started using mattress covers and bagging their clothes. Firefighters were worried about bringing the bugs back into their own homes.

Firefighters said they go into all kinds of homes and recently were in one with bedbugs while on a medical call.

Rick Kozin, with the Polk County Health Department, said it's not surprising to find bed bugs anywhere, since the tiny insects are travelers.

"Wherever they can catch a ride on clothing, suitcase or furniture, they take advantage of that," said Kozin.

An exterminator treated the fire station with extreme heat to kill the bugs Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Polk County Bedbug Task Force continues to meet about once a month to try to stamp out the pesky problem.

"The number of calls at the health department -- we get about one or two a week -- has stayed steady," said Kozin. "All of us throughout the community are at some level of risk."