City, FD will not be fined for Orlando firefighters' asbestos exposure

ORLANDO, Fla. — 9 Investigates discovered the city of Orlando and its fire department will not be fined after firefighters were exposed to asbestos while prepping a building for training.

The city could have been forced to pay thousands for the conditions.

Channel 9's Jeff Levkulich spoke with fire department leaders Tuesday, who said they're making sweeping changes.

The fire department will implement a new asbestos training program.

In the last 10 years, only seven similar cases have resulted in no fines.

According to documents from the Orange County Environmental Protection Division, 42 companies have been fined over the last 10 years for violating asbestos regulations.

The fines ranged from $650 to $90,000.

Orlando firefighters were exposed to the hazardous substance last February at the building used for training on Mercy Drive.

After a recent hearing, the city and the fire department, which were facing fines of $25,000 per violation, were not fined.

“I do think it's a win-win for everybody involved," said Orlando Fire Department Deputy Chief Gerald Lane.

Lane said the city is implementing asbestos training within the next 30 to 60 days, and that that will cost the department practically nothing to implement.
"Probably the most positive thing that occurred for us is we have actually improved our communication with Orange County EPD," said Lane. "Going forward, we have improved, or implemented some additional rules going forward, and hopefully we don't have to deal with this again."
WFTV legal analyst Belvin Perry said training will not have an effect on the long-term health costs, or any potential future lawsuits filed against the city.        
"Unfortunately, it does not provide a shield for the Orlando Fire Department for any potential litigation given with asbestos-related illnesses that some firefighter may have suffered," Lane said.
The firefighters affected will have to monitor their lungs for years to come, but Lane said firefighters are always running into buildings where there could be asbestos, or other dangerous chemicals.