FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WTVD) -- For the first time, Fort Bragg opened the doors to its Smoke Bomb Hill barracks to the media on Thursday. The barracks have been making headlines in recent weeks for being vacated because of poor conditions including HVAC problems and mold.
A tour of some of the units didn't reveal any obvious, substantial evidence of mold or untenable conditions. The modest living spaces mainly had subtle signs of wear and tear from aging and longtime use. Still, Fort Bragg officials said they are committed to giving their service members comfortable living conditions that are up to their standards.
"We will not put someone in a home that's not suitable," said Major Gen. Brian Mennes, XVIII Airborne Corps deputy commanding general and acting senior mission commander. "We will not put somebody in a barracks that's not suitable. So then it's up to us to identify those that's--is it refill, rebuild, tear down, etc."
Fort Bragg said this effort that includes demolishing 12 of the barracks--and refurbishing five--is involving several departments across post. The demolition and refurbishment projects will cost about $115 million. As of Thursday, more than 300 soldiers have been moved out of the barracks; a total of about 1,200 will be relocating to other barracks on post.
In response to questions about whether there could be issues of mold and untenable conditions at other barracks on post, officials shut that down. They said housing facilities are evaluated for safety and proper conditions on an ongoing basis. They also said buildings are refurbished and newly built in a continual process on post, and that plans for buildings are decided as they age out. Officials said the timing of the Smoke Bomb Hill barracks' renovation and demolition effort falls into that timeline, as those barracks have run their course.
"We have different rooms that have issues like all places--water leaks, or things like that, or for some reason, it's not being cooled properly," Mennes said. "So we don't have any more barracks necessarily like this that we need to vacate. And I think that what we've got to do is just keep up with the pace of, as the buildings age out, refurb or build new."
ABC11 also asked whether soldiers can expect to receive any special medical treatment or resources if they claim to have health issues resulting from exposure to mold at the property. Fort Bragg officials said they have yet to receive any reports of health issues stemming from mold exposure and don't anticipate seeing significant cases of health problems from these barracks' conditions.
However, they noted that soldiers with health concerns can use the post's medical facilities and offerings at any time.