The discovery of mold has forced Oakdale Fire Protection District (ORFD) to temporarily shutter the Valley Home Fire Station until the problem has been abated, citing health concerns.
A firefighter reported difficulties breathing back in November while at the station that didn’t occur anywhere else, prompting him to pull up the carpet where he found mold.
ORFD board of directors paid Modesto-based Bovee Environmental Management, Inc. (BEM) $650 for a microbial inspection report and the findings came back as positive for several types of mold spores, including toxic black mold.
According to their findings, there was excessive water damage with visible mold growth on the carpet, pad and tack strips within the front, middle and rear bedrooms. There was also excessive water damage on the lower sheetrock walls of the front, middle, rear bedrooms as well as the kitchen. Moisture was detected within the carpet pad and tack strips of the bedrooms. Air samples confirmed the presence of microbial contamination on the lower walls, carpet, pad, tack strips, and within the ambient air.
BEM recommended the living quarters should be closed to personnel immediately until such time that remediation could be attained.
ORFD directors concurred and the station was browned out until a course of action could be determined. In the meantime, resources have been shifted from the Valley Home station to staff Knights Ferry.
Previously, resources had been shared between the two outlying stations within ORFD’s boundaries to provide fair coverage within budgetary constraints.
This is the second time repairs have been made to address a water leak issue at the Valley Home station and discussion has begun whether or not to task the builder with mediation.
ORFD Interim Fire Chief Steve Mayotte said until the true cause of the water issue was determined, it was premature to determine a course of action.
At the Friday, Dec. 9 board meeting, directors voted to seal off the living quarters of the Valley Home station so that personnel could enter the apparatus bay without harm.
Currently, ORFD is looking for bid proposals to remediate and/or clean the station.
“We need clean up and rehab,” Mayotte said. “It could be one or two companies that handle that work.”
However, Mayotte admitted the bigger problem was determining the cause of the mold growth. “We’re still trying to determine if the issue was caused by the earlier event. Potentially, the windows may have caused this but we don’t know yet. We don’t want a Band-Aid. We want to fix it for good.”
The challenge for the rural district will be how to pay for the major rehab.
“We have a small station maintenance fund and we’ve filed an insurance claim but we’re not sure at this point how much the insurance will pay,” Mayotte said.
Either way, those tiny spores have the potential to be costly to eradicate.
And as Mayotte so aptly put it, “Construction is construction and it’s always expensive.”
In the meantime, plans are in place to completely seal off the station, but it will remain uninhabitable, which means the station cannot be used other than personnel having access to the apparatus bay.
“Ideally, we want to get the station open as soon as possible,” Mayotte said. “But it’s hard to say when that will be.”