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Insurance to cover firefighters' exams

Members of the city's fire department had filed several grievances, alleging diesel fumes in their building could cause health p

Members of the city's fire department had filed several grievances, alleging diesel fumes in their building could cause health p

December 13, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Martinsburg Fire Department firefighters who in September filed a grievance against the city, alleging diesel fumes in their building could cause serious health problems, can have health exams paid for by their health care plan, city council members decided Thursday night.

Firefighters had asked that they be tested for medical problems and that a private contractor survey the fire station on Raleigh Street to design a proper exhaust removal system, according to a written six-page report and recommendation prepared by City Manager Mark Baldwin.

Along with the issue of health exams, city council members unanimously approved Baldwin's findings in the matter. They include recommendations that air quality be tested but that, in the interim, the department continue its standard operating procedure regarding fumes. That procedure is that garage doors be left open 2 to 3 inches and that exhaust fans be turned on when emergency equipment, like fire trucks or ambulances, is running indoors.

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Firefighters filed their first grievance on Sept. 23. Subsequent, higher level grievances were filed Oct. 1 and Oct. 15.

On Nov. 12, an employee of MSES Consultants Inc., based in Clarksburg, W.Va., tested the air in several portions of the fire department's main station, including the garage, kitchen, bunk area, engine room and chief's office, the report states.

Carbon dioxide levels ranged from 590 to 1,094 parts per million. National guidelines recommend that concentrations should be around 600 to 1,000 ppm, according to MSES's report. Concentrations greater than 1,000 do not mean "the building is hazardous or that it should be evacuated," the report reads.

Carbon monoxide exposure was also found to be at acceptable levels, according to the report.

City fire officials continue to examine whether they should invest in new exhaust systems, Baldwin said.

"We're just moving forward, trying to correct any deficiencies there may be," Baldwin said. "There's no right or wrong here."

Eighteen firefighters participated in the first grievance filed, but only five followed it up with subsequent grievances, Baldwin said.

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