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Firefighters flee fleas — but not soon enough

Firefighters in Connecticut leave a house when they began itching badly but don't realize until they're in the truck that they're covered in fleas. Next stop: The hospital, for stripping, scrubbing and testing for plague.
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Firefighters who answered the call in Waterbury Tuesday didn't battle a raging fire, but instead were overrun by fleas.

The members of Engine 2 left the scene of an abandoned house they were investigating on Taylor Street when they began to itch terribly. While on the ride back to the station, they noticed fleas all over them.

"It was thousands of them," Fire Chief David Martin said.

The firefighters were taken to the hospital, where they had to strip before going in for fear they might bring the fleas in with them. Covered in flea bites, they were scrubbed down at the hospital before being released.

All four firefighters were bitten so many times that they returned to the hospital Wednesday to be tested for a number of flea-borne illnesses, including the bubonic plague, according to Martin.

The fire truck was taken out of service until it can be fumigated, and the gear the firefighters were wearing at the time was bagged and was being washed in special "high-heat" machines to kill any remaining fleas.

"I've been doing this for 23 years, and I've never heard of anything like it," Martin told the Waterbury Republican-American. "It's not your typical work hazard, that's for sure."