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Asbestos Closes Ohio Fire Station

The mayor of Massillon, Ohio has announced that the city’s oldest operating fire station will close on May 1 because the poor condition of the building represents a major health risk for firefighters and others who work inside.

According to an article in The Independent, the 61-year-old fire station, which has been in continual use since it was erected in the 1950s, contains flaking asbestos tiles, lots of mold, peeling paint, and other hazards that could affect the health of those who spend time inside.

“It’s a health and safety issue,” said George Maier, Safety-Service Director for the city of Massillon. “It’s a 1951 building. It’s been deteriorating. The city has not had the funds or the resources to put into the facility it deserves to maintain it.”

Maier noted that the suspended ceiling recently fell down but, luckily, no one was hurt. The flaking asbestos tiles throughout the building also represent a major hazard. Airborne “friable” asbestos, caused by the presence of old and damaged tiles, can be inhaled by those working inside the deteriorating building. Potentially, the firefighters and other staff members face the risk of developing an assortment of asbestos-related diseases including lung scarring, asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other kinds of cancers.

Fire Chief Thomas Burgasser wants the public to know that the problems with asbestos and other toxins is not the result of poor maintenance on the part of his firefighters. He says they clean the station weekly. The problem, Burgasser notes, is much more serious and it just wasn’t getting any better.

“Black mold — you just don’t take a little bit of bleach and get rid of that,” he said. “It’s the same with asbestos. When these tiles flake you have to abate those things. Quite frankly, we don’t have the dollars to do that.”