[image-1]As if battling blazes wasn’t enough, Charleston firefighters at three local stations have been relocated due to bedbug infestations.

First popping up at Station 20 on Daniel Island, firefighters there were temporarily relocated while professional contractors inspected and cleaned the station, according to a statement released by Chief Fire Marshal Michael Julazadeh.

“Upon completion of the process, crews returned to the station, but still observed signs of infestation. Crews were again relocated as the professional contractor applied another treatment. Information was distributed to the department outlining recommended preventive measures to reduce the spread of the pests,” wrote Julazadeh. “Due to employee concerns about the residual effects of the pesticides used, the department’s health and safety officer researched and located a mitigation effort that uses high heat to eradicate the pests. This effort was applied to Station 20 and a professional cleaning company was brought in to deep clean the station. Crews returned to Station 20 this week and a bug was located on Sunday. It has yet to be confirmed as a bedbug but the crew was relocated back to Station 18 as a precautionary measure.”

In addition to the lingering infestation on Daniel Island, fire stations 7 and 13 on James Island have also been home to bedbugs in recent weeks. According to Julazadeh, a specially-trained hound was brought in to detect bedbugs in the buildings. In the meantime, fire crews have been relocated to temporary shelters set up outside of Station 13.

The Charleston Fire Department has hired a professional pest control company to treat Station 20 and Interim Chief John Tippett has directed all city fire stations to be inspected by the bedbug-sniffing dog to ensure that they are free of infestation.

“This isn’t something we ever want our firefighters to have to go through or are happy about them enduring,” Tippett said Monday. “But, as always, our members have more than risen to the occasion, and really been remarkable every step of the way. They know that this job is ultimately about saving lives and property, as we saw just this morning with the fire at the Ashley Marina. The men and women of this department aren’t about to let this or any other problem get in the way of that duty.”

According to the department, bedbug infestations have been a growing issue across the region. Four Myrtle Beach fire stations experienced a similar issue in 2015, and Berkeley County EMS dealt with an infestation earlier this year.

In the most recent “Top 50 Bedbug Cities” list compiled annually by pest control company Orkin, the Greenville-Spartanburg area ranked 25th based on the highest rates of bedbug treatments, while Myrtle Beach ranked 39th in the nation.

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