NORFOLK -- The City of Norfolk spent more than $30,000 after finding bed bugs in five fire departments across town. A 13News Now investigation first reported the problem in mid-October, when the department had learned three stations had been infected over a period of several months. Those infestations prompted a department-wide search for bed bugs which found the pests at two more stations.
Now, the Virginia Beach Fire Department says they're tightening their cleaning and storage protocols to prevent a similar infestation from breaking out at one of their stations. "This could happen anywhere and we're really sorry it happened to our brothers and sisters in Norfolk," Battalion Chief Amy Valdez with the Virginia Beach Fire Department said. "What we've been able to do is learn from some of the things. "They've shared a lot of their knowledge about having had to deal with this problem."
Valdez said her department is in the process of finishing a training video for firefighters on best practices for hygiene and a how-to on inspecting bed bugs. The tips include storing shoes off of the ground and inspecting the grooves of your bed once a week. Those tips are especially important in a region poised for a massive bed bug infestation.
Kevin Campbell owns Cimex Exterminating and specializes in bed bug removal. He also trains dogs to sniff out bed bugs. Campell said Hampton Roads is on its way to becoming one of the top 50 regions for bed bug infestations in the country.
"[It's due to] many different factors. I would have to say, lack of education and awareness, military travel-- we do, after all haev the largest military base in the world-- and with travel, of course, with vacationers, with Virginia Beach," Campbell said.
Making the problem worse, Campell said, is that some popular DIY solutions won't actually kill bed bugs or their eggs. "First of all, don't put any chemicals down, especially bed bug bombs," Campbell said. "You're going to make it worse. Second would be to call a pest professional that has experience dealing with bed bugs."
Campbell said it's easier--and cheaper--to prevent a bed bug infestation as opposed to treating it once it's happened. When bed bugs move in, everything most go. The Norfolk Fire Department spent thousands on new mattresses, mattress pads and even furniture.
The fire departments in Suffolk and Newport News say they've also taken similar measures recently in hopes of preventing a bed bug infestation at any of their stations.