SEATTLE – Firefighters and apparatus stationed at Fire Station 31 (1319 N. Northgate Way) have been temporarily relocated to neighboring fire stations to allow for further mold testing of the facility. This move took place June 18 and remains in effect.
The Seattle Fire Department is committed to responding quickly to emergencies and is closely monitoring response times. Fire crews have been moved to the nearest neighboring stations surrounding the Station 31 service area:
- Ladder 5 to Station 39 (four firefighters)
- Medic 31 to Station 35 (two firefighter/paramedics)
- Aid 31 to Station 24 (two firefighters but on 12-hour shifts)
- Engine 31 to Station 17 (four firefighters)
As of June 25, the department has not seen a significant delay in response times. Based on analytics, the department predicts that delays of up to one minute could be possible during this relocation.
Firefighters have a dangerous job. The dangers they face don’t just include the fires they fight and the buildings that may collapse, but also the chemicals, toxins, and carcinogens released by the fires they fight. Because of this, firefighters can suffer a range of resulting diseases that can reduce their quality of life and life expectancy. As a result, Seattle is committed to monitoring our dedicated workers and ensuring we don’t have any elevated problems because of their working conditions.
Due to the incidences of cancer among firefighters who have worked at Fire Station 31 at some point in their careers, the Seattle Fire Department and Local 27, Seattle Fire Fighters Union have been working with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to research firefighter cancer rates for current and retired firefighters who have worked at that station. This study is expected to be complete in early 2020.
As part of the City’s work to ensure the safety and well-being of SFD members, the City has conducted environmental testing of Station 31 five times over the last 15 years. As recently as 2018, that analysis included testing for common environmental toxins known to cause cancer. Experts have indicated the building is safe for the SFD members assigned to it, as the previous testing did not identify problems with carcinogens at the station. Similar testing in 2016 did not find harmful levels of mold and bacteria.
Testing by the Seattle Fire Fighters Union, Local 27 contractor (REALTIME Labs)
In the last several weeks, Local 27 performed additional testing of Station 31 through a company called REALTIME Labs. Local 27 then shared the results of three of nine samples taken with the department and City, which indicated there may be mycotoxins (a byproduct of some molds) in some locations inside the building.
Testing by the City’s contractors
Mayor Durkan and Chief Scoggins immediately directed the Finance and Administrative Services Department to work in partnership with the fire department to conduct additional testing of the facility by a third-party company called NVL Laboratories, which specializes in industrial hygiene. NVL Laboratories conducted testing at Station 31 on June 18 for mycotoxins and mold spores using a combination of surface and air sampling. A second City-contracted company, Kester Clear Environmental Solutions, also conducted testing for mycotoxins on June 21.
Initial Results from NVL
The City received a report from NVL Laboratories on June 19 which analyzed three of nine samples for mycotoxins that Local 27 had received from REALTIME Labs. The NVL Laboratories report also includes results from the mold sampling NVL conducted on June 18. As noted in the initial report, “the results of the dust mycotoxin sampling demonstrate that there are mold spores present in the settled dust in the facility. The air sample results show that the airborne spore levels in the facility are normal and typical for an indoor environment.”
There are only two labs in the nation that analyze mycotoxins. We anticipate the results to arrive within 10 business days.
The City has engaged local and state public health experts to provide information about molds and mycotoxins, which will help inform next steps.
As we learn more, we will provide updates about the facility testing and relocation of Fire Station 31 on this blog.
6/25 Update: Results from REALTIME Labs for the remaining six samples were received by Local 27 and provided to the City. Those are being analyzed by NVL Laboratories now.