Broken Rockville firehouse HVAC system causes indoor temps to hit 86°
ROCKVILLE, Md. (ABC7) — Firefighters are accustomed to battling the heat, but typically not within the confines of their own firehouse.
Yet at Rockville Volunteer Fire Department (RVFD) Station Three in downtown Rockville, a broken HVAC system has sent indoor temperatures shooting above 80 degrees during recent weeks.
A number of career firefighters, all speaking on the condition of anonymity, explain the trouble first began in mid-July. With hot-sticky outdoor temperatures well into the 90s, crewmembers submitted a number of work requests via an internal fire department portal. However, according to RVFD firefighters, Montgomery County officials did not respond with a sense of urgency.
To combat the sweltering conditions, ceiling fans were programmed to high. A number of portable fans and air conditioning units were strategically placed throughout the three-story firehouse constructed in 1966. One air conditioner, for example, was used to keep critical electronics from overheating. Other units were setup in bunkrooms where around 16 first responders sleep each night.
A big blue tarp and spare wooden door were also installed on the main level to contain cool air in concentrated areas. Some firefighters treated their self-described “misery” with humor, taping 'Sauna Safety' signs on doors within the firehouse. The sign read in part, "Exit immediately if uncomfortable, dizzy or sleepy."
According to Montgomery County Fire Rescue Service battalion chief Kelvin Thomas, workers with the Department of General Services began repairs late last week. Thomas further explained that three rooftop air conditioning units all went kaput at around the same time. However, as of Wednesday afternoon, two of the three units had been fully repaired and the indoor temperature had fallen to a cool 71 degrees. Upon the shipment of a few miscellaneous parts, workers will complete repairs to the third unit.
"You work a pretty dangerous job as it is, a pretty taxing job and the last thing you'd want to deal with is a broken AC unit," battalion chief Thomas told ABC7 by telephone "Any delay — or perceived delay in getting AC units repaired — could make personnel just a little edgy."