Bed bug infestation bites Fort Knox, evacuating 3,000 workers as buildings close

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Caution tape blocked off six buildings at Fort Knox over the long holiday weekend as the Hardin County army post dealt with a bed bug infestation.

Fort Knox officials shut down the entire Timothy J. Maude Complex and evacuated roughly 3,000 soldiers and civilian employees from the U.S. Army Human Resources Command. 

WDRB News obtained a memo sent to personnel last week uncovering a town hall meeting on the bed bug problem. The memo directed workers to among other things, "Remove all articles of clothing normally left in lockers or cubical areas. Remove food items from trash receptacles and remove food items and drink items out of desks and from the top of desks."  

A fleet of specially trained dogs was brought in the Maude Complex to inspect the buildings and alerted multiple areas. Experts said the dogs can sniff out live bed bugs or their eggs. 

Although the bed bugs are not considered much of a health hazard, they bite and feed on human blood.

In an email, HRC public affairs LTC Janet Herrick said, "U.S. Army Human Resources Command identified evidence of pest infestation ... and notified the Fort Knox Directorate of Public Works on June 13."

It would be two more weeks before those dogs were brought into the buildings, and they were ultimately shut down. 

Meanwhile, whistle-blowers told WDRB News that army staff in the HRC had long complained about the critters coming home from the office on their clothes.

The bed bugs issue brought work to a crawl last week as many people were granted paid administrative until Fort Knox fixed the problem.

"That will hurt individuals seeking to go to different schools, PCSing (permanent change station), promotions, anything like that," retired soldier Christina Baker said.

HRC is not just specific to Fort Knox. It's the human resources hub for the entire U.S. Army.

"So if you are stationed in Hawaii and you come down on orders for Germany or somewhere, it's coming from Fort Knox," Baker said. "I just see it as a mini-Pentagon. That is where everything happens. It's like the heart of everything."

Herrick told WDRB News essential staff worked from other buildings or telecommuted, but she couldn't provide the actual number of HRC employees on the job during the Maude Complex shut-down. 

Staff from the Fort Knox medical clinic wrote an article for the post's internal newspaper headlined, "Increase in bed bugs due to travel, other factors."  

The piece did not directly address the issues in the HRC. Instead, it told people how to protect themselves.

"The health and safety of our workforce is paramount..." Herrick said. 

Exterminators worked through the weekend and the Fourth of July, fumigating the six buildings in the Maude Complex. 

Travis Becraft of Black Diamond Pest Control knows all about the living habits of bed bugs.

"They can hide in any crack or crevice," Becraft said. "They can get on plastic, metal, wood, cloth.

"Fumigation would be a process where they have to close it up and actually use a system in there that would get into the cracks and crevasses, and that would kill any bugs or eggs in the facility."

Herrick said crews were cleaning up Wednesday to prepare the facilities for workers return following the chemical use. 

Becraft was not hired for the job, but the so-called "bed bug guy" said the post took the right action. 

"It sounds to me they went above and beyond," he said.

The only concern as workers return is that those bed bugs don't crawl back through the gates with them. 

Fort Knox expects all HRC staff back in the Maude Complex on Thursday, July 6.

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