ROUND ROCK, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - Several firefighters at the Round Rock Central Fire Station are demanding answers from the city after they made a shocking discovery this year.
The president of the Round Rock Association of Professional Firefighters says the majority of the firefighters at Station 1 have been having health issues related to mold exposure. Some have reported multiple sinus infections, bronchitis and, even pneumonia.
Billy Colburn, president, and Wayne Pietzsch, secretary, have been firefighters with station 1 (Central Round Rock Fire Station) for decades.
Not only do they fight fires, but right now they're fighting to protect their brothers and sisters at Station 1.
“Guys are feeling like the city doesn't have their back,” Pietzsch said.
In February 2018 several firefighters at Station 1, including Colburn and Pietzsch, started noticing a decline in their health. Pietzsch says it began with multiple sinus infections, a lot of guys were waking up in the morning with upper respiratory issues.
“There was one individual in particular with sinus infection after sinus infection that turned into walking pneumonia bronchitis and then we found out he had a broken rib after that,” Pietzsch added.
After discovering mold in the A/C ducts, they also found mold in other areas like bathrooms, in the sleeping areas and closets. They notified management, but the issue worsened.
“Once they started opening up walls and finding out there was more and more exposure, it was just opening up a bigger box, Pandora's box the more they looked, the more they would find,” Pietzsch said.
Pietzsch says after four guys were diagnosed with pneumonia, the department decided to move all personnel out of the building into a trailer.
“So right now, again the two rooms originally that went into more rooms that went into now the entire duct work all the ceiling grating all that had to be taken down all that is in dumpsters,” he said.
So in January 2019, the Station 1 firefighters joined together to pay for their own air quality test. The results showed multiple areas with high levels of spore counts in the bedrooms and closets.
They turned it into administration, who then asked the city to do a test. The results were the same.
“The inside of the station looks like total chaos there's instillation, there's dirt, debris, everything that came out of the attic space,” Pietzsch said.
Last weekend they sent this e-mail to city management, HR and the fire chief. They say their medical bills are adding up and insurance claims are being denied.
“It's disheartening that the fire chief wouldn't be up at city hall kicking down doors trying to get these guys reimbursed for medical expense these firefighters have families just like everybody else, now they've got medical bills, time lost at work,” Colburn said.
The association says if the city doesn't respond, they don't mind taking legal action. The city responded to a request for comment, saying they're still in the process of rounding up information.