The Washington Post

Firefighters battle three-alarm bed bug outbreak

(These are bed bugs. You don’t want these in your home, hotel room, or fire station. (Associated Press))

Three Montgomery County stations just finished fighting off the itch inducers this summer with professional artillery. The last of several high-tech fumigation interventions commenced yesterday, and fire officials hope to never see or feel or think about the pests again. Firefighters will be required to wash their sheets more, among other preventive steps.

County fire officials refuse to identify the stations infected. I assume this is because they don’t want residents served by those firefighters to worry that bed bugs will be transferred during visits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says: “Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel.”

This raises the question: How did the fire stations become infested to begin with? Tim Burn, spokesman for the International Association of Fire Fighters, says his organization does not have reports of bed bugs being a nationwide problem for firefighters, though an Iowa fire station fought some off in May.

“We don’t know how they were brought in,” said Montgomery County assistant fire chief Scott Graham. “God knows how they got there.”

But Eric Bernard, head of the county’s volunteer firefighters, suspects bed bugs are now another hazard of firefighter life.

“We go into all sorts of environments — hotels, jails, people’s houses,” he said. “We go into places that might have a problem with bed bugs, and we bring them back. If we find a patient in bed, we are kneeling on that bed to treat them.”

Not to worry, though. Firefighters aren’t scared.

“Yes, there has been an annoyance factor,” Bernard said. “But our firefighters are not gonna let a few bed bugs bother them.”

Michael Rosenwald is a reporter on the Post's local enterprise team. He writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture.

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