Only on 4: OSHA Says Firefighter Death Should Have Been Prevented

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Updated: 12/14/2011 6:26 pm
CARSON CITY, Nev. ( & KRNV) - The Nevada Department of Forestry is facing thousands of dollars in fines relating to a fire-fighter's death.

Paul Cash died at the age of 39 leaving behind a wife and daughter. His online obituary says "Paul's passing has left a hole in all of our hearts. He loved everyone and was loved by all."

The Elko County corner confirms that Cash died because of complications from the rare Hantavirus. In a complaint filed by the Occupational Safety and Health Chief Administrative Officer, he claims Cash contracted the virus at one of the Spring Creek fire stations just outside of Elko. The main way you get it is from inhaling deer mouse droppings, and the OSHA worker writes:

"Firefighters were potentially exposed to deer mice feces, but had not received specific training on proper precautions to protect themselves."

The complaint goes on to say that despite federal law, the firefighters were not required to use protective gear like gloves and safety suit while cleaning up areas with those droppings. Furthermore the firefighters normal routines involved them sweeping up the station with equipment that had been stored next to possible deer mice nesting sites - something that could have pushed the dangerous feces particles up into the air where crews could breathe it in. Finally the complaint says that after receiving confirmation that the firefighter died because of quote "occupational exposure to Hantavirus," the Nevada division of forestry failed to notify OSHA like the law requires.

The state agency declined an on-camera interview, but a spokesperson for the division of forestry e-mailed news 4 this statement reading:

“We value the health and safety of our employees, and we cannot comment further about this situation because of pending litigation."
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Billy - 12/15/2011 7:27 PM
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So... how do we protect ourselves from the deer mouse droppings hantavirus? And what does a deer mouse look like?

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