Update: County knew about fire station closure ahead of time
By Chip Skambis
An Alachua County fire station closure that Gainesville says caused a gap in coverage had been in the works since October 1st, according to county reports obtained by TV20.
The closure of Fire Station 19 to clean out mold prompted Gainesville Fire Rescue to station a truck at a hotel in the area to maintain adequate emergency response times, said Gene Prince, the city's fire chief.
Prince said he became aware of the closure Monday morning after receiving an email saying firefighters were leaving Station 19, which covers a swath of Gainesville containing the apartments on Southwest 20th and Butler Plaza.
The county informed him that the trucks normally at Station 19 had been relocated to stations on Southwest 88th street and Ft. Clarke Boulevard.
“GFR determined that the relocation of Rescue 19 and Engine 19 outside the service area created a gap in coverage and increased response times,” wrote Prince in a memo to the mayor.
The city’s decision to station a truck in the area caught county fire chief Ed Bailey off-guard, who thought the county would continue to cover the area.
“I don’t know what their thought process was on that,” said Bill Northcutt, assistant fire chief for Alachua County.
Investigation into the mold at Station 19 had been going on for months. A county facilities management team first noticed ceiling discoloration in the men’s bathroom during a routine inspection in late July, according to an incident report.
Further investigation conducted in mid-September revealed a damp colony of what is known as “toxic black mold” growing on the ceiling insulation, prompting the county to put in an emergency request on Oct. 1st to remove it.
A lab test of the bathroom air shows a spore count (a common measure of mold growth) of 2780 spores per cubic meter of air, which the report describes as "troubling."
"More troubling is the species detected are associated with water damage and production of toxins," wrote William Zegel of Water & Air Research Inc. in the report.
The county expects the $14,850 removal project will be completed Friday.
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