[image-1]Four weeks after bedbugs were first discovered in a local fire station, Charleston firefighters displaced by bedbugs have finally returned to their posts.

Officials with the Charleston Fire Department announced Monday that all area fire stations have been cleared of bedbugs. The four stations that were evacuated have been successfully treated using high heat and found to be free of infestation following re-inspection.

“I’m very pleased to report that as of yesterday we’ve completed inspections of all fire stations and they’ve all been found clear of bedbug infestation. We are continuing on with recommendations from Dr. [Eric] Benson out of Clemson University, as far as how to prevent a re-infestation,” said Interim Fire Chief John Tippett on Monday.

Tippett said that specialized detectors will be added to the dorm spaces in the fire stations to provide an early alert as to the future presence of any bedbugs. The total cost of the treatment and inspection of fire stations, as well as firefighters’ homes, is not yet known. Also, the original source of the infestation remains unknown, and Tippett said there was no clear link between the four stations that experienced infestations.

“We’ve found out that they are sort of the scourge of the country. They are showing up everywhere. We can’t even be sure that there was a patient zero for our purposes,” said Tippett. “They could have hitchhiked in coming back from a call. They could have been brought back to work by somebody who came back from a trip. There’s any variety of cases or ways that they could have been brought back.”

In total, 16 fire stations were inspected for bedbugs using specially trained dogs trained to seek out infestations. James Trimble, owner of narcotics and bedbug detection company Confidential K9, commended the speed and aggressiveness with which the department addressed the infestations. Trimble’s certified bedbug detection dog, Rex, has undergone more than 1,000 hours of training and carried out many of the inspections.

“Bedbugs, nobody likes them. With their ability to spread and manifest themselves, especially in the lifestyle of different fire departments, [the Charleston Fire Department] really did an incredible job getting out in front of this thing and it should be used as a template around the country,” said Trimble.