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Bats force Pasco Fire Rescue crew out of station

HUDSON — A Pasco Fire Rescue crew has been edged out of its station after discovering some unwanted nocturnal neighbors.

The county announced on Friday it has temporarily closed Fire Station 39, at 11630 County Line Road, after finding a colony of bats in the building. The mammals caused an unsanitary and unsafe working environment. Officials are working with a wildlife contractor — a bat trapper — to remove them and prevent future incidents, a county news release said.

While it is the first time firefighters have been forced out of their station, it's not the first run-in with bats there, said Pasco Fire Rescue Deputy Chief of Administration Andrew Fossa.

For the past five years, fire and rescue workers have seen the winged creatures near their station. At first, it was only at dusk. However, the population has since grown exponentially, and about two years ago Pasco Fire Rescue decided to keep them out of the station by building them homes, called bat boxes — boxes with holes in the bottom and rods that run horizontally inside for hanging.

But the colony continued to grow, moving from the boxes to the station. Now the boxes are empty, and anywhere from 500 to 1,000 bats have found their way into the station.

"They've found them in the sleeping quarters, they found them in the weight room, they found them in the bathrooms and it's gotten to the point that it's become a risk," Fossa said.

Because it is their maternity season, it's illegal to completely remove the bats from the building until after August. Until then, officials will seal off entrances to the living quarters. Wildlife officials will then continue to monitor the situation and determine the best way to remove the colony.

Fossa said there will be no lapse in coverage while the station is closed.

The team's fire engine will respond from a station in Shady Hills, and the rescue unit will work from another station in Hudson. Hernando County Fire Rescue will also help cover northwest Pasco.

Contact Chris Bowling at cbowling@tampabay.com or at (813) 435-7308. Follow @chrismbowling.

Bats force Pasco Fire Rescue crew out of station 06/12/17 [Last modified: Monday, June 12, 2017 9:24am]
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