By Jeff Tang
(LOUISVILLE, September 23rd, 2004) -- Louisville firefighters can respond to a disaster in minutes but the results of a new study released this week show that some of the firehouses are in serious need of major repairs. WAVE 3's Jeff Tang reports.
Many of the fire houses in the downtown area are close to 100 years old. And because of budget problems over the past decades they haven't gotten the attention they've needed, but that could all be changing.
Metro officials say they are committed to making all of the city's fire stations safe places to work.
Engine Number 7 Station at 6th and York was built in 1871, complete with fire pole and emergency bell. It is the oldest continuously used firehouse in the U.S. But 130 years of constant wear and tear are starting to catch up with the station.
"The buildings are deteriorating," says Public Protection Secretary Kim Allen.
Local government is now looking into fixing No. 7 and 11 other Louisville fire stations. The city is starting its work by studying if the buildings are structurally and environmentally safe.
"What we did find was a whole inventory of a number of issues that need to be addressed and repaired," Allen says.
At Engine No. 7 seven and at the Engine No. 10 station on Ashland Avenue and 5th Street, there is plenty to worry about: mold in basements and storage rooms, water damaged ceilings, asbestos housed underneath cracking floor tiles, paint peeling off walls.
In many stations, surfaces covered with lead-based paints deteriorate right next to firemen's beds.
Another concern at many of the firehouses is the diesel exhaust from the fire trucks and the ambulances. The fumes go straight from the vehicles directly into the firemen's lockers.
Louisville Fire & Rescue Chief Greg Frederick says firefighters are safe despite these "quality of life" issues. "Clearly this report indicates that there are minimal amounts of exposure to things such diesel exhaust, lead-based paint, and mold."
Earlier this month Mayor Jerry Abramson earmarked $1 million to make firehouse repairs. But Frederick doesn't know how much it will cost to repair 12 fire stations. "I really can't give you a number on that, the million dollars may accommodate everything we need to do."
The city has not made concrete plans to fix any of the firehouses, but officials promise they are committed to the project.
"By the end of the year, repairs will begin being made," Allen said.
Metro Government is also planning to conduct a deployment study for the city, which will help fire officials place future stations in the places where they are most needed.
This is the first time in 30 years that such a study has been conducted.