Firefighters in Orlando, Florida claim their own department placed them in harm’s way after ordering them to work in an asbestos-filled abandoned apartment, that was scheduled to be used as a burning building for training.
WFTV ABC 9 reports that the Orange County Fire Department allegedly didn’t inform their firefighters that an apartment building on Orlando’s Mercy Drive was contaminated with asbestos before they sent orders for the firefighters to enter the building and start scraping it down. The news station states that the firefighters were only ordered to leave the property after news reporters began asking questions.
According to Orlando firefighter Anthony Donohoe, many people had worked in the building for weeks, increasing their chances of developing a toxic disease each time they entered the building.
“It’s not just me. They’ve been out there working this for weeks, doing demo on the floors for weeks. It’s not just me. It’s who knows how many other firefighters.”
Donohue also said that the firefighters were ordered to scrape the building, yet were never offered any type of protective gear, a direct violation of Florida laws and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) laws on asbestos handling.
“We were scraping, literally using scrapers, some of us were on our hands and knees scraping it. I know you’re supposed to wear like Tyvek suits, respirators (and) we didn’t have any of that. We’re out there in plain clothes.”
Although a Tampa company who performed a pre-demolition survey on the building clearly stated that numerous parts of the building contain asbestos, it seems as if the details were ignored by the Orange County Fire Department, something that greatly concerns Donohue.
“There’s a chance that I will not come home one day, there is a chance. I understand that. But to bring it home to my family, to get in my car with all that asbestos dust. To get in my car and bring it home to my family, I just don’t think it’s right.”
Unfortunately, the Orange County firefighters represent only a small portion of firefighters who constantly face the dangers of asbestos exposure. Firefighters across the nation, generally the first responders to a fire and other similar emergencies, are quick to help diffuse the situation as soon as possible, putting their own safety on the line. When entering an older, fire-damaged home, firefighters are at risk of asbestos exposure via numerous different parts of the home, which may include:
- Duct insulation
- Roof materials
- Old appliances
- Vinyl, and more
In other cases, similar to the Orange County incident, asbestos exposure could have been prevented. In 2007, an Everett County, Washington team of firefighters were ordered to train in a building contaminated with asbestos. The firefighters were told that the building was asbestos-free, yet within the first week of training, asbestos was discovered throughout the building.
The firefighters filed a $9 million mesothelioma lawsuit against the city of Everett afterwards, which was eventually settled in 2011, after the city offered the firefighters a lifetime of medical care and checkups, along with an increase of twice their base pay.
For additional information on firefighters and asbestos, including safety measures to take and information about litigation, refer to our article, Asbestos and Firefighters.
Additional Help and Resources for Firefighters Exposed to Asbestos
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other illness related to asbestos, you may be eligible for substantial compensation. There is currently over $30 billion in asbestos trust funds, set up for those who are victims to asbestos-related diseases. Use our free Asbestos Attorney Locator Tool today to find a leading mesothelioma attorney in your area. If you have questions and need assistance, contact us toll free at 800-694-4856.