Red White and Blue Fire District has had cell transmission towers attached to their Tiger Road fire station for over two decades and there have been no issues, but within the last year after T-Mobile sent out a crew to upgrade the devices attached to the building and left a concerning sign warning about dangerous levels of exposure, the fire department closed down the station until they could learn more.
Co-Interim Fire Chief Drew Hoehn said while they eventually confirmed with two independent industrial hygienists that their building was indeed safe from any radiofrequency, electromagnetic fields and indoor air quality issues, he was still proud of the decision to close up the station for around two months while they got it checked out.
"The sign they posted was really troubling," Hoehn said over the phone to your reporter in the mountains Spencer Wilson Wednesday. "I think we were really courageous to make the decision we did. Just imagine if it wasn't safe."
In the time that the station was closed, resources and staff were working out of nearby stations with Red White and Blue Fire District (RWBFD), and Hoehn said not only is he confident there was no drop in quality, and he also felt especially confident considering the months they were out were low frequency call months and a partnership with Summit Fire and EMS would help them maintain quality response times regardless.
The cell transmission gear is attached to the station because of a lease agreement from both T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. While RWBFD cannot terminate the lease until at least 2028-2029, Hoehn said he is hopeful by giving the companies notice that they are no longer interested in housing the gear will inspire the companies to start looking elsewhere and cut the lease on their end early.
While Hoehn is confident the building is safe for his workers, he believes a "kernel of doubt" is now present regardless of the transparent proof that the building is safe, and the conversations with T-Mobile did not "inspire confidence" after inconsistent information kept coming back, according to Hoehn.
RWBFD will now do yearly checks at the station similar to the two they have already done to make sure the readings are still coming back safe and environment for those working there is safe too.
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