Firefighters: Call, don't handle drug-related paraphernalia - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Firefighters: Call, don't handle drug-related paraphernalia

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – In the past few months, a crackdown on drugs has led to heroin and methamphetamine busts in the La Crosse area.

EMTs are also adding to the effort by making sure they're properly trained to handle overdoses.

Law enforcement and first responders rely on the public to help them combat a growing drug problem. That's why they're commending a landlord who Wednesday morning, called the La Crosse Fire Department for help.

A HAZMAT team and firefighters surrounded that south side home. There wasn't a fire, or a drug overdose, but instead, a concerned landlord.

He had rented out his home and as he was cleaning it, came across strange liquids in his basement.

Instead of picking them up and throwing them out, the landlord called the fire department to make sure everything was safe.

"He felt there was possible products of maybe meth manufacture, things of that nature,” said Capt. Jeff Schott of the La Crosse Fire Department.

That's how all landlords should respond if they see suspicious items in their rentals, Schott said. Wednesday morning's call was a false alarm, but if there were in fact drugs or explosives in his basement, that landlord could have been significantly injured.

"Pop bottles that have powders in them instead of liquid. Or even if you suspect there might be something that's of a devious nature or may cause harm to you or your family, or a child could get a hold of, you call the fire department. We'll come out and take a look at it,” Schott said.

"Renters tend to move quite often, so you don't get to know them as much,” said Barb Janssen, a property manager.

She said she lives close to her rentals, so her renters know to follow the rules.

"I also let them know—it's a very clear expectation in their lease—that they're going to leave the property just as good as they found it,” Janssen said.

But when renters are more transient, it changes the atmosphere of a neighborhood, she added.

Schott says La Crosse itself has changed.

"I can tell you with certainty when I came on the job 13 years ago, we didn't go on needle pick-up calls,” he said.

Now that the snow has melted, the fire department is getting several calls that syringes used to inject drugs are on the streets, according to Schott, adding do not tough them, but call 9-1-1 and have the HAZMAT team dispose of those needles properly.

The fire department has 25 people on their HAZMAT team. It's state funded and they have the equipment to be able to identify a hazardous substance on site.

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