PINE BLUFF, Ark. — First responders in Pine Bluff are sending out their own call for help, after finding black mold growing in the city’s public safety building.
Fire Chief Shaun Howell knows in his life of work, minutes matter. It’s just that amount of time he says he had to prepare for a flash flood last month that inundated the department.
“You have about 5 minutes to make some tough decisions,” Howell said. “I witnessed it just go from just hard rain, to a little water, to just gradually got worse.”
That was just one of two times in the past year that torrential rain has poured into the fire house and police department next door.
“The biggest concern was protecting the fire trucks,” Howell explained.
As the water receded, Howell says black mold moved in. The fire station is mainly made of concrete so Howell says it was spared, with some equipment and office gear that needed to be replaced.
Next door the police station didn’t fare as well, with the mold so extensive the ground floor offices are closed.
“The entire floor has been evacuated and nobody is allowed in,” said Public Information Officer for the Police Department, DeAunuana Roberts.
Both departments say a solution won’t be easy, pinning the problem in part on inadequate drainage and a sloped driveway that creates a pooling effect outside the building. The city is weighing both drainage and moving the departments as possible fixes.
“We can only hope that either the problem is fixed or there is another solution that arises,” Roberts added.
The city estimates mold abatement will cost upwards of $100,000. That cost could go up since crews are still trying to gauge if the mold spread into the air ducts, which are shared by the entire 3-story building.
Howell just wants a safe building so his teams can focus on what matters most.
“You’re here to serve the public in their time of need and if you’re not able to to do that, that’s defeating your purpose.”