Treatment underway at Charleston Fire stations for bed bug infestations

Sleeping arrangements inside the tents (Source: Live 5)
Sleeping arrangements inside the tents (Source: Live 5)
Heating unit being used to destroy the bed bugs (Source: Live 5)
Heating unit being used to destroy the bed bugs (Source: Live 5)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - All Charleston Fire stations will be inspected for bed bugs after three turned up with the insects over the last few weeks, according to a Battalion Chief with the Charleston Fire Department.

Health and Safety Officer Kenneth Jenkins said the first report came three weeks ago at Station 20 on Daniel Island.

"We had it all wiped down, were assured that took care of the problem," Jenkins said. "We got them all moved back in and then that night they saw more bed bugs crawling across their feet."

Now those crews have relocated to Station 18 until their building can be treated.

While some crews may have a solid place to sleep, Charleston firefighters at Stations 13 and 7 on James Island are camping in their work backyard.

"They seem to be somewhat comfortable in there," Jenkins said. "They've got two full-size air conditioners on each of those tents. They've got tables, cots, bed linens... everything they need until we get this problem in their station."

Jenkins said the bed bugs were discovered at the James Island stations last week.

"People were saying they were getting bit," Jenkins said. "They thought they were getting bit back at home cutting their grass, so we investigated. We looked into the bed bug issue, flipped over the mattresses and sure enough found some in the cracks and crevices."

Now the focus is on getting the bugs out and getting back to a normal routine.

"Two propane heaters that are used exclusively to heat the space up above 120 degrees, for three hours," Jenkins said. "That will kill any bugs or eggs in that space."

As for damage to furniture, Jenkins said couches and beds at Station 20 have been thrown out.

A photo taken over the weekend and posted to social media shows couches and beds along the road from a station on James Island. Those pieces of furniture were spray-painted with the words"bed bugs".

"I don't think we need to replace all the mattresses," Jenkins said. "After talking to the professionals, maybe a couple of select mattresses which are really old may need to be replaced but I think we can kill it with the heat treatment."

The plan is to move the heating units to Station 7 Wednesday for treatment.

Officials added there is no threat to the public with this infestation.

Employees at the station are being asked to take additional preventative measures especially by washing their uniforms immediately after use.

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