The Virginia Beach Professional Firefighters Union is concerned that some firefighters were exposed to asbestos during a training. On April 15th, trainees burnt a house as a part of the training were asbestos was later found. The house dates back to the 1930s and was offered to be burned as a training exercise by its owner who knew one of the fire officials involved.
The Virginia Beach Fire Chief, David Hutcheson stated the station failed to receive paperwork from the homeowner stating that the home contained asbestos before the exercise took place. A small amount of asbestos was found near the fireplace after the training exercise was completed. Besides the lack of proper paperwork, Chief Hutcheson states that there was confusion by an officer about new rules in rural areas for this type of training.
The firefighters union has reported the incident to the FBI, EPA, and state departments of environmental quality, labor, and industry, as well occupational safety and health. The president of the origination and a retired Virginia Beach firefighter, Bill Bailey, stated that the incident “appears to be a clear violation of federal and state environmental laws and cannot be tolerated or ignored.” Even though the training has now been reported to the appropriate authorities, Bailey is concerned that the trust of the public and the firefighters has been damaged and “can only be regained by a complete, transparent, and thorough investigation along with appropriate consequences.”
Virginia Beach officials don’t seem too alarmed since only a small amount was found weeks after the house was burned. They do admit that mistakes were made and they will take steps to prevent this happening again.
Even though only a small amount was found, we know that any amount of asbestos exposure is unsafe. Firefighters and neighborhood residents may have been put at risk from the carelessness of the fire department and city officials.
Sources: 1, 2