Winter weather caused many schools, businesses, and government buildings to shut their doors. However, one important Catoosa County building closed for an entirely different, and more dangerous, reason.
We confirmed Thursday with multiple Catoosa County officials that Fire Station 3 has closed its doors for mold contamination.
County Manager Mike Helton said several firefighters expressed they weren't feeling well, and had to seek medical attention. The county has been working to restore the building to proper health standards, but in the meantime, an empty firehouse is causing an uneasy community.
"I mean, it's a natural disaster. I mean, now that it's closed down, if people have a house fire, you have got go to a different fire department," said resident Robert Gresham.
Gresham, like many other Catoosa County residents, are concerned firefighters' response time from a station farther away could make the difference between life or death.
One of the engines from Station 3 on Highway 41 has been relocated to Station 7 on Lakeview Drive. That could mean an increase in response time by four or five minutes, but we have yet to confirm if, in fact, response times are affected.
Meanwhile, yellow "Do Not Cross" tape lies across the entrance to the Station 3. The parking lot sits empty. And the doors are locked.
Residents say they are glad the Health Department has intervened.
"Absolutely. I think the county should fund it to be cleaned up so they can have a functioning office to help us for our needs. That's what they're there for, right?" said Chad Vance.
"Sure, I mean when you have less, and fewer resources, you have fewer things to count on," said Charles Evans. "That building is not that old. That's surprising and disappointing."
Helton said their office is continuing to review the air quality in the building. We did try to reach Fire Chief, Chuck Nichols, at work and by cell phone several times, but were not able to reach him.
We are digging deeper into this matter, and will continue to update you as we learn more from the Health Department, and Catoosa County government officials.
By: Kelsey Bagwell