ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando firefighters said they were put in harm’s way by their own department by being forced to work in a building that was filled with asbestos.
Orange County said the department didn’t inform the firefighters that the abandoned apartment building on Mercy Drive had the cancer-causing substance.
The department had planned on burning the buildings for training.
The firefighters were ordered off the property when 9 Investigates started asking questions.
Federal law mandates that asbestos in a building be removed and disposed of by trained and licensed professionals, but the firefighters were doing the work without knowing of the asbestos.
“It’s not just me. They’ve been out there working this for weeks, doing demo on the floors for weeks. It’s not just me. Who knows how many other firefighters,” Orlando firefighter Anthony Donohoe said.
Orange County Environmental Protection officials launched an investigation into the incident.
“We were scraping, literally using scrapers, some of us were on our hands and knees scraping it,” Donohoe said. “I know you’re supposed to wear like Tyvex suits, respirators (and) we didn’t have any of that. We’re out there in plain clothes.”
His wife is worried about secondary exposure for the whole family.
“It’s everywhere, you know? Our baby is riding in his car. I was riding in his car. We’re all now exposed to asbestos,” said Donohoe’s wife, Andrea Donohoe.
A pre-demolition survey from a Tampa company made it clear that several buildings have asbestos in numerous areas.
“There’s a chance that I will not come home one day, there is a chance. I understand that. But to bring it home to my family, to get in my car with all that asbestos dust. To get in my car and bring it home to my family, I just don’t think it’s right,” Anthony Donohoe said.
Orlando’s fire chief met with union officials behind closed doors at Station 1 to discuss the situation.
Channel 9 asked Chief Roderick Williams if he looked at the report from Tampa.
“Like I said, we are on a fact-finding missing right now. We are looking at all the facts and turning over every stone we can,” Williams said.
Union officials said they are concerned.
“We are looking into finding out if anybody was exposed to harmful things out there and right now, we are trying to get out in front of it,” said Wayne Bernoska.