Bats invade Pasco fire station, forcing firefighters out

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A Pasco County fire station has been invaded by bats.The flying creatures have led county officials to shut down the facility until they're cleared out.

For the past five years, fruit bats have been getting into Fire Station 39 on County Line Road in Hudson. At first, the problem was not severe, with bats flying in and out of the bay.

Firefighters built boxes for the bats outside of the station to help them create homes elsewhere.

The boxes didn't work.  All of the bats eventually found their way into the fire station and formed a colony, according to fire officials.

The unwelcome guests have taken over firefighters' living and working spaces, including their bathroom and weight room.

"We had a couple of guys that went to bed and woke up in the morning snuggling with bats, basically," said Deputy Chief of Administration Andrew Fossa.

County officials said the conditions have gotten "unsanitary and unsafe."

All of the firefighters and fire equipment were removed from Station 39 last week.  Firefighters are temporarily being relocated to two other stations in the county.

"The engine company went to Station 20, which is in Shady Hills, and the rescue company went down to Hudson Station 10," said Fossa.

Getting rid of the bat colony is not an easy task for fire officials because it is bat mating season. 

"What's unfortunate about it is it's May. May through August, the bats are protected, so you can't kill them, you can't touch them, you can't do anything with them, technically, by state law," explained Fossa.

Pasco fire officials filed for an emergency removal with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

With the help of animal control, they have trappers at the station every day to catch and relocate the bats. Devices have been set up on the roof at the site of bats' entryways. The tool prevents bats from getting back inside the station after they fly out.

Before firefighters can move back in, there must be no bat activity for at least 72 hours, according to fire officials.

They said the bats have not been aggressive, but one female firefighter reported noticing a bite. She said she was not sure if it came from an insect or a bat.

As a precaution, each firefighter is getting a rabies shot.