Training facility for Dearborn firefighters shut down for lead concerns

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Firefighters risk their lives every day braving flames to save our families.

But first responders in Dearborn say they're now facing a new threat, a toxic training facility. It's making people sick and now they say  there is proof.

Soon after Dearborn firefighters started using an old building on Greenfield as a practice facility last fall, they started feeling sick.

"We had one member that was taken by ambulance to the emergency room with an upper respiratory problem during training," said Jeff Lentz, president, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 412. "He was diagnosed with an acute bronchial spasm from inhaling irritants."

Lentz called the city and asked for the building to be tested. Preliminary results show lead levels in dust, three times the standard level. It was kicked up during the training exercises, done by the 128 uniformed firefighters. None of them were wearing masks.

After requesting a response from city officials, FOX 2 went inside, finding signs warning of lead and smelling a strong stench of sewage. Then Dearborn police arrived.

Four Dearborn police officers escorted FOX 2 out of the building, saying there will be someone available soon to answer questions.

A little later, a city worker arrived to put us in contact with the city, when we were given a statement from Mary Laundroche, Dearborn director of public information.

"The city has been proactive in responding to concerns raised by employees and taken steps at every opportunity to protect employees."

In addition, city officials say the building, which was constructed in 1931, is shut down until further testing can be done. Fifteen Dearborn Public Works employees who also work there, were relocated Friday.

All firefighters have also been offered free blood testing to check their lead levels, while they wait to hear, results of other pending tests.

"Not only are we exposed to carcinogens and cancer-causing agents when we fight fires," said Lentz, "but we shouldn't be exposed to these dangers when we're not fighting fires in controlled trading environments."