The Woonsocket Fire Department is dealing with an infestation of bed bugs at one of their stations, NBC 10 News learned on Thursday.
Chief Paul Shatraw said they discovered there was an issue after one of the firefighters developed a rash. He went to the hospital, where it was determined he suffered possible bed bug bites.
“It appeared to be bed bug bites,” Shatraw told NBC 10.
As a result, an exterminator inspected Fire Station Number 3 on North Main Street and found the infestation in the living quarters of the station.
A pest control company treated the building, as well as a rescue and an engine truck, on Wednesday. They also removed all bedding, clothing, lockers and personal items.
“We took aggressive action,” the chief said.
The pest company is scheduled to return to the station to double check that the treatment was successful.
“These are actually the second homes for these men and women of the fire department, so we want to make sure they are as comfortable as possible when, in fact, they do come back,” Shatraw said.
Meanwhile, the firefighters were relocated to Station 6 on Fairmount Street without an interruption of services.
“In terms of them coming back, we certainly won’t put them back in the building until we get 100 percent clearance from the pest control company that it’s been completely eradicated,” Shatraw said.
The chief also said that it is unclear at this point where the bed bugs came from, noting that it’s possible the critters were clinging to clothing after firefighters made an emergency call.
“We’re in an out of residential dwellings, nursing homes, the hospital, boarding homes, apartment houses,” Shatraw said.
The news comes about a month after there were bed beg bed concerns at Woonsocket High School.
Dr. Patrick J. McGee, who is the superintendent of the city’s school department, previously said one case of bed bugs was reported on January 29 to the school nurse, who followed the district protocol and addressed the issue.
“First, let me say that there is no infestation, nor has there been an infestation, of bed bugs at Woonsocket High School or any other school in the Woonsocket Education Department,” McGee said in a letter sent to parents and staff members on Feb. 7.
“Next, the custodial staff at Woonsocket High School followed the district’s Pest Management and Control Procedures and thoroughly treated the necessary rooms on the evening of the reported incident,” McGee said, adding that there have not been any reports or cases of bed bugs at the school since. “Again, this was an isolated case and not an infestation of bed bugs at Woonsocket High School.”
While they are gross, unpleasant and itchy, Joseph Wendelken, who is a spokesman for the Health Department, said the organization doesn’t usually get involved in bed bug cases.
But, said Wendelken, there’s a silver lining.
“The good news, if there is any good news about bed bugs, is that they don’t transmit disease,” Wendelken said, adding that “they’re great hitchhikers.”
The firefighters union president told NBC 10 they are working to make sure the bugs didn’t spread to firefighters homes or homes they may have responded to.
(NBC 10’s Brian Crandall contributed to this report.)