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Rats Force Firefighters From NYC Station

August 6, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) _ A blazing building? Not a problem for New York City firefighters. A firehouse infested with vermin? Well, that’s a rat of a different color.

Horrified members of New York’s bravest have temporarily abandoned a firehouse because of massive rat infestation, and fire officials say the building must be gutted to eliminate the pervasive rodent population.

``It was like that movie `Willard,‴ Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said Wednesday, referring to the film about a social outcast who goes on a rampage and uses his rats to attack colleagues who had been tormenting him.

``I had goosebumps for a long, long time after that movie.″

The firefighters at the 43-year-old house in Queens felt the same way after hearing rats scurrying through walls and spotting their beady eyes peering out from beneath the kitchen sink. Some of the rats were 10 inches long.

One night, firefighters captured seven rats in their kitchen and found several more dead ones behind a radiator, said Stephen Humensky, Queens trustee for the firefighters union.

Dead rats in the walls and ceilings caused the stench that finally led to Tuesday’s evacuation.

``When you take out your pots and pans to cook and they’re loaded with rat droppings, it makes for a very unappetizing situation,″ Humensky said, holding up a dead rat outside the firehouse Tuesday.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said exterminators visited the firehouse 26 times since March, to no avail.

``In retrospect, maybe we should have just, day one, ripped everything out,″ he said.

The building’s 60 firefighters will be temporarily reassigned to three nearby firehouses. The Fire Department said it will take up to 10 weeks to strip the house down to its shell and rebuild it.

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