READY TO ROLL

READY TO ROLL

Friday, February 11, 2005

FIRES AT RADIO ARLINGTON

Fire department records from the 1920s and 1930s list a variety of fire alarms at Radio, Virginia – a neighborhood named for the old U.S. Navy Wireless Station in the vicinity of Columbia Pike and Courthouse Road.

A trio of radio antennas – known to locals as ``The Three Sisters’’ – towered over the neighborhood. In their day, the antenna towers were the world’s tallest. One of the towers was 45 feet taller than the Washington Monument. The Navy opened Radio Arlington, call sign NAA, in 1913, launching the U.S. military’s global communications system. A streetcar stop was even named ``Radio.’’

Old Radio Arlington marked the first time the term ``radio’’ was used in communications, according to Nan and Ross Netherton’s book ``Arlington County in Virginia: A Pictorial History,'' which was published in 1987. In the days of Marconi and other radio pioneers, the new communications mode was called ``wireless telegraphy.’’

Eiffel Tower

Radio Arlington’s other firsts included a transoceanic radiotelephone circuit with a wireless station at the Eiffel Tower in 1915, and regular broadcasts of time signals, a service that helped ships at sea calibrate their navigational equipment.

Records from the Arlington Volunteer Fire Department, Company 1, list a variety of runs to Radio, including a house fire on Jan. 12, 1930 that caused $5,000 damage. Company 1 laid 900 feet of house and pumped water for 45 minutes. A total of 15 members of Company 1 answered the alarm, which was struck at 10:30 p.m. The firemen left the scene at 1:30 a.m.

Among other runs to Radio, according to logs provided by Robert Potter, president of Company 1: June 7, 1927 – House fire, 750 feet of hose used July 7, 1927 – False alarm. Nov. 20, 1927 – Two runs. A house fire in the morning and an auto fire on the grounds of the radio station in the evening. Jan. 13, 1928 – Field fire. Jan. 14, 1928 – Garage fire. July 8, 1928 – Auto fire. Feb. 3, 1929 – Grass fire on Lee Avenue. Jan. 11, 1930 – False alarm. Feb. 21, 1930 – Grass fire. Aug. 24, 1930 – Grass fire. April 24, 1932 – Grass fire on the grounds of the radio station. May 25, 1932 – Electric pole. Jan. 19, 1934 – Grass fire on the grounds of the radio station.