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How Hall County Fire Services is fixing carbon monoxide issue at stations

When Hall County Fire Services conducted carbon monoxide testing at its stations in January, the levels were high.

The levels were from 17 parts per million to 25 parts per million, when the “U.S. standards for (carbon monoxide) levels are maximum of 9 (parts per million) of carbon monoxide for 8 hour exposure,” according to grant paperwork filed with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA on Aug. 24 awarded Hall County Fire Services $181,890 in a grant for vehicle exhaust removal systems. The county’s match will be $18,188, bringing the total project over $200,000.

The systems will be placed in the nine stations built before 2002.

Exhaust fumes are produced hourly from starting up the vehicles and returning them to the station, as well as routine pump testing, according to the grant.

“If you look at all the chemicals that are in diesel exhaust, they’re all bad for long-term exposure … If you’ve got three to four trucks in a station running calls, (there are) guys walking around in the bay, working out in the bay, things like that. You want to make sure that those chemicals are gone after every call, and what we’re looking for is some sort of system that removes those contaminants very quickly, holds onto them and meets the (Environmental Protection Agency) rules,” Capt. Zachary Brackett said.

The stations affected will be the following:

  • Station 4: 2940 McEver Road, Gainesville
  • Station 6: 6170 Lula Road, Lula
  • Station 7: 731 East Crescent Drive, Gainesville
  • Station 8: 6175 Gaines Ferry Road, Flowery Branch
  • Station 9: 5040 Poplar Springs Road, Gainesville
  • Station 10: 5608 Ga. 52, Gillsville
  • Station 11: 5625 Bark Camp Road, Murrayville
  • Station 12: 4890 Winder Highway, Flowery Branch
  • Station 13: 2709 Sardis Road, Gainesville

In the grant paperwork, Hall County officials noted concerns about biannual visits from schoolchildren as well as the 353 firefighters of the department.

“The goal is to correct this problem before it causes serious damage to the health and wellbeing of Hall County’s firefighters and the many visitors to the stations,” according to the grant.

Exposure to high levels of diesel particulate and gases can cause headache, dizziness and nausea and are “are associated with an increased risk of lung cancer for firefighters and others that visit the fire stations,” according to the grant, which noted the possibility of a rise in injuries, absences and health claims from firefighters.

Brackett said the items under this grant will go through a bid process.