READY TO ROLL

READY TO ROLL

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

JFK

Photo: Abbey Roads blog

"John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration was on fire — literally. Cardinal Richard Cushing’s podium caught on fire because of an electrical short while he was saying the invocation. Kennedy kept it cool, though, cracking a smile once the situation was handled." - Politico

D.C. NURSING HOME



On Feb., 1, 1961, fire killed seven patients on the top floor of the Mount Vernon Nursing Home at 2301 Calvert St., Northwest, Washington, D.C.

Twenty-seven people were reported injured.

Residents of the first three floors were rescued by employees, firefighters and passersby.


Those killed were identified by the Associated Press as:
MRS. ETHEL SCHNEIDER, 70.
MRS. DORA TRENT, 75.
MRS. MAUDE STEVENS, 77.
MRS. ALICE HESSELBACK, 86.
IRA MOSS, 63.
DR. ERNEST F. BURCHARD, 85.
JOHN DRAGUNIER, 90. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

FROM A READER



Scenes from 1959 Pentagon fire: Smoke pushing from basement; Capt. Charles Theodore and a soot-covered Capt. Leon Dodson Sr. , with Theodore carrying an MSA breathing apparatus.


To the Editor:

I read with great interest, the article about the fire at the Pentagon which took place July 2nd 1959.  Link to article

I was surprised to read that "miraculously, no one perished", because in fact, my grandfather Horace L. Woodward Sr. died at his home, at 1611 Army Navy Drive, as a result of smoke inhalation from the fire.

He was at the Pentagon when the fire occurred and helped many people out of the building, after which he left the scene and went home where he then collapsed.

My grandmother, Olga Woodward, then called their doctor, who, after examining him gave him an injection of something (possibly digitalis?) which caused my grandfather to awaken and exclaim, "What are you doing to me?"

He then collapsed and died. Perhaps he would have survived, had he stayed at the scene and been treated by the medics there, or if he had died there he would have been rightfully counted as the lone casualty of the fire.

I was only seven years old at the time, and our family lived far away in New Jersey.

I've always considered my grandfather to be a hero for the way he helped others without concern for his own safety.

 
Regards,

Niel C. Woodward

Thursday, July 23, 2015

ENGINE 7

Photo: ACFD Virtual Museum
Smile at the camera boys! Old Engine 7 was a GMC/American LaFrance 750 gpm. Left to right Arlington County's Frank R. Higgins, Lt. Charlie Burke and Woody Griffin in 1969.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

FLIGHT 537




Site of the crash

Mr. Harold Leroy (above) was among the Arlington firemen who responded to the crash

In 1949, an Eastern Airlines DC-4 passenger liner plunged into the Potomac River just south of National Airport after a mid-air collision with a military aircraft.

***

Glen Tigner, 21, an air traffic controller on duty at the National Airport Tower on Nov. 1, 1949, sounded the crash alarm. ``Turn left! Turn left!’’ Tigner had radioed moments earlier as a Bolivian Air Force fighter on a practice run veered toward a commercial flight on approach to the airport from the south.

Eastern Airlines Flight 537, which originated in Boston and made a stopover in New York, carried 55 passengers and crew. The Bolivian aircraft, a single-seat P-38 Lockheed Lightning, had just been purchased from the U.S. government. Flight 537’s final destination was supposed to be New Orleans. It never made in beyond Alexandria. At 1156 hours, the fighter slammed into the Douglas DC-4. The tail of the commercial airliner just missed the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, near Four Mile Run.

Everyone aboard Flight 537 died. The pilot of the Bolivian aircraft, Capt. Eric Rios Bridaux, 28, was seriously injured - but survived.

At the time, it was considered the nation's deadliest civilian aircraft accident. CLICK HERE for Flight 537 investigation report. 

Among the dead: 
U.S. Representatives George Bates of Massachusetts, Michael Kennedy of New York and Helen Hokinson, a cartoonist for New Yorker magazine.


"The DC-4 pilot swerved the big ship from its path, but too late," according to a dispatch in the Nov. 2, 1949 edition of The St. Joseph (Michigan) Herald-Press newspaper. "The fighter ripped into it from above and from the side. The airliner split in half. Bodies and wreckage fell into the water and along the bank of the Potomac."

Retired Arlington firefighter Frank Higgins recalled the grisly recovery, with fire and ambulance crews removing victims from the river. Some were still strapped in their seats. Many were severely disfigured. ``Legs, a headless body,'' Higgins said, describing the gruesome inventory.

Others related similar stories. Firefighters also gathered personal effects from the knee-deep water and muck. ``The river was very shallow there,’’ said Harold LeRoy, a veteran Arlington volunteer firefighter.

A quarter mile away, a crash boat from Bolling Air Force Base rescued the fighter pilot. ``The Bolivian ambassador, after visiting Captain Rios in the hospital, said the pilot told him he had been occupied with engine difficulties and apparently did not hear the final warning from the control tower,’’ according to The New York Times.

Newspaper and wire service photos of the crash scene showed the shattered rear of the DC-4 resting on the Virginia shoreline, firefighters removing a victim’s body from the shallow water on a stretcher and an airline pilot carrying a child’s doll recovered from the river.

J. Donald Mayor, a sales manager for Custom Upholstering Co, was driving on the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway and witnessed the collision. The Falls Church resident stopped his car and waded into the river before firefighters arrived.

``I ripped off my coat jacket and took off my shoes,’’ Mayor told The Washington Post. ``I saw a few fellows just standing there and I shouted `What’s the matter? You cowards?’ Two ran along with me. For some reason, I don’t know why, but I rolled up my sleeves.’’

Mayor and the others spotted a woman floating face down in the oily water. They dragged her ashore. She was bleeding from the mouth and mortally wounded. By that time, firefighters arrived and blanketed the wreckage with foam.

``Then I saw them open rescue holes in the plane with special equipment they had,’’ Mayor said. ``Rescue workers got a woman’s body out of the wreckage first. She was about 70 at least, with gray hair and wrinkled skin, very heavy set. Looked like her nose had been ripped off. Then they brought out a young man, about 30 or so. He was in an Army jacket, I think. Next they got a heavy man.’’

Soaked and shivering, Mayor got in his car and headed home to his family in Falls Church. ``I saw I couldn’t do any more,’’ he said.

The Associated Press reported:

"When darkness came last night, more than a score of bodies had not been recovered. Police figured that all of those yet missing were in the river. As the night went on, a few more bodies were recovered but the progress was slow.

"It was an eerie scene. Sticking out from a clump of small trees at the river's edge was the tail and fuselage of the big airliner. Its wings were shorn off, the four engines gone.

"Big floodlights played on the inky river from atop fire department trucks. Another searchlight had been set up on the bank. 
Off to one side a corps of Red Cross women served coffee and sandwiches to the tired battalions hunting for the dead.
"Occasionally one of the boats would break away from the other little craft about 100 feet off shore. Quietly the word went around and men carrying a stretcher would go down to the water. Then in a few minutes an ambulance, siren wailing softly, would move off toward the city."
Sadly, the scene was repeated a month later. On Dec. 12, 1949, Capital Airlines Flight 500 crashed in the Potomac River. CLICK HERE for Flight 500 accident report. Of the 23 people aboard, six perished the DC-3 "wandered off a radar path leading into fog-bound National Airport," the Associated Press reported.

Eastern Airlines Flight 537 Passengers


Rep. GEORGE J. BATES (R-Mass.), 58, Salem, Mass.

MICHAEL J. KENNEDY, 52, New York City.
MISS HELEN HOKINSON, New York City.
GARDNER W. TAYLOR, Bronxville, N. Y.
DR. FRANCIS E. RANDALL, 35, Lawrence, Mass.
LAWRENCE P. GLASSNER, 42, Jamaica, N. Y.
RAYMOND DEAN, 33, Yonkers, N. Y.
M. L. DANIEL,  New Boston, N. H.

LOUIS ISGUR, Brookline, Mass.
MR. AND MRS. FRED E. McCUSTY and daughter MAUREENE, 18-months-old, Brighton, Mass.
MRS. M. A. PERKINS, Cairo, Ga.
MRS. SAM (SHIRLEY) WILLIAMSON, Blaine, Me.
WHITNEY E. BAKER, Plainfield, N. J.
W. J. CASEY, Brooklyn, N. Y.
MRS. CHARLES (BETTY) CHASE, 26, and CARTER CARRINGTON CHASE, 9-months-old, Wiscasset, Me.
MISS G. COSTA, Rio Padres, Puerto Rico.
MISS MARY DONOVAN, Brooklyn, N. Y.
E. FAIR (or FAIRE), no address.
ROBERT M. FIELD, Riverdale-on-Hudson, N. Y.
SCRIBNER FITZHUGH, Lake Forest, Ill.
MISS THELMA FOSTER, Missoula, Mont.
NOAH GALLOP, Jamaica, N. Y.
FRED HARTMAN, Amityville, N. Y.
HOWARD C. HAUPT, Garden City, N. Y.
RALPH HORTON, N. Y.
MRS. S. KENT, no address.
ROBERT LYNAK, Ridgewood, N. H.
MISS O. MARTINEZ, Rio Padres, Puerto Rico.
TED MAGEE, Oklahoma City.
MR. AND MRS. RALPH F. MILLER, Chevy Chase, Md.
L. B. MOSS, White Plains, N. Y.
LAWRENCE OCLECK, New York City.
MR. AND MRS. PAUL N. PECK, Richmond, Va.
THEODORE RICHIE, New York City.
L. SAXE, no address.
RALPH B. SHAW, Bayside, N. Y.
PHILIP SILVERMAN, New York City.
HAROLD V. SMITH, Saratoga Springs, N. Y.
WILLIAM SMYTHE, Roslyn Estates, N. Y.
FRANK E. SPAULING, White Plains, N. Y.
HAROLD W. ST. CLAIRE, New York City.
MISS BETSY THORUP, Wellesley Hills, Mass. Senior at Duke University.
MRS. ISABELLE VELOUTINI, Caracas, Venezuela.
JULES VOGEL, New York City.
FRANCIS M. WELD, New York City.
J. D. WICKS, Gastonia, N. C.
Crew
Pilot Capt. GEORGE RAY, Mt. Kimball Lake, N. J.
Co-pilot CHARLES R. HAZELWOOD, Roselle, N. J.
Hostess MISS HELEN GILBERT, Brooklyn.
Purser OSCAR ORIHUELA, New York
City.

HECHINGER'S - 1969




Photos: Falls Church VFD

On Memorial Day 1969, fire destroyed the Hechinger's building supply store on South Washington Street in Falls Church.

It was one of the biggest blazes of the 1960s for the Falls Church Volunteer Fire Department and the Arlington County Fire Department.

The flames - from a store stocked with lumber, paint and other flammables - were visible for a mile or more at the height of the inferno
.

The Hechinger Co., founded in 1911, was a mainstay of the Washington area for decades.

The company went into a state of decline in the 1990s, declared bankruptcy and closed in 1999.

HONOR GUARD


Funeral procession for Paramedic Joshua Weissman, 33, of the Alexandria Fire Department, who died Feb. 9, 2012, from injuries sustained in the line of duty at a car fire on I-395 near Glebe Road.

'CHRISTINE'


1980's era reserve ladder nicknamed "Christine" after a horror movie of same name about "a sentient and violent automobile" restored after extensive repairs.

OLD NO. 3

Old Cherrydale Fire Station following World War II

Old Cherrydale Fire Station in 21st Century

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

MURPHY'S - 1968


On Oct. 23, 1968,  flames gutted Murphy's Five and Dime Store in Clarendon. The blaze was discovered by the crew of Wagon 4 on their return from an alarm at Bergman's Laundry.

NELSON STREET - 1964

Fire Capt. Archie Hughes

Firefighters attempt to reach Hughes

An Arlington County fire captain was killed in the line of duty in a seemingly routine house fire on the night of Monday, Oct. 19, 1964.

Capt. Archie Hughes, 33, was the officer in charge of Engine Co. 4 . He got his start as a volunteer firefighter, joined the paid department, advanced to the rank of fire lieutenant in 1957 and fire captain in 1961. His father and brother also served as volunteer firefighters.

Hughes died alone in the attic of a two-story brick house at 2362 N. Nelson St. Four other firefighters were injured in the effort to rescue their fallen comrade.

Fire marshal's account

Fire Marshal Leslie Shelton provided this account of the fire, as reported in the Oct. 20, 1964 edition of The Washington Star:

Mrs. Thomas Sanderson was in a first-floor family room with her son, Richard, 12, her daughter Jill, 8, and her mother, Mrs. Hilma Chardavoyne, a wheelchair invalid, when everyone smelled smoke about 7:45 p.m.

At first they thought a cigarette had been dropped in a chair. They searched chairs, the carpet, closets and examined the television. Finding nothing, Richard went outside and Mrs. Sanderson went to awaken her husband, who was sleeping in a first-floor bedroom. Richard saw smoke billowing from the roof and shouted a warning to the family.

Hughes was one of the first firefighters to enter the burning house. He climbed through a trap door into the attic, wearing protective breathing apparatus and his turnout gear. It simply wasn't enough to protect him from the flames and smoke. (Later accounts suggested Hughes may have removed some of his protective gear to fit into the attic.)

According to The Washington Star: When he failed to reappear after several minutes, his men attempted to go after him, but intense heat made the trap door unapproachable.

Rescue attempt thwarted

Other firemen chopped and tore at the shingled roof in an effort to reach Hughes. They succeeded in making an opening, but a burst of air through the hole caused the blaze to explode throughout the attic, making rescue impossible.

Hughes body was recovered about a half hour after the fire was quelled. The loss of a firefighter is always hard on the department, but in the case of Archie Hughes the loss was especially great because he was considered one of the department's up-and coming leaders, a dedicated firefighter and a decent human being.

"If he had lived I'm sure he would have made chief officer," the late James Fought, a retired battalion chief, said in an interview in the late 1990s. Fought was Hughes' first captain when he advanced to the ranks of the paid department and was assigned to Company 5, in what is now Crystal City.

Flags were flown at half mast across Arlington, and the Northern Virginia Board of Realtors, of which Mr. Sanderson was a member, established a fund to benefit Hughes' wife, Eldina, and their three children, who were aged 6 years, 21 months and 9 months in 1964, according to the Oct. 21 edition of The Washington Post.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

L'ENFANT PLAZA

UPDATED JAN. 20, 2015





WASHINGTON, D.C.

It happened almost 33 years to the date of the twin disasters of Jan. 13, 1982 - the Air Florida crash at the 14th Street Bridge and Metrorail accident at Smithsonian station.

On Jan. 12, 2015, smoke from an arcing third rail filled a Metrorail tunnel at L'Enfant Plaza, killing a woman and sickening more than 80 others trapped aboard a stalled, rush-hour Yellow Line train bound for Virginia.

Passengers expressed anger at the pace of the rescue.

The reason:

The electrified third rail remained live until 3:50 p.m., 35 minutes after the train stalled in the tunnel, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board,
delaying firefighters from reaching the train.

Rescuers were also hindered by radio communications problems.

Timeline from Mayor's Office

3:18 p.m. — 911 call from construction worker near Ninth and Water streets SW, for smoke from ventilation shaft near where Metrorail Yellow Line tracks emerge above ground.
3:22 p.m. — WMATA call to District's 911 advising of smoke in L'Enfant Plaza station.
3:24 p.m. — WMATA calls back, elevating call, saying heavy smoke in station, passengers affected.
3:25 p.m. — Firetrucks arrive at Ninth and Water streets.
3:28 p.m. — D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services declares "Metro tunnel box alarm," begins rolling "about 10" pieces of equipment to L'Enfant Plaza.
3:31 p.m.— Firetrucks arrive at L'Enfant Plaza.
3:32 p.m. — Metropolitan Police Department arrives on scene.
3:32 p.m. — Another caller outside L'Enfant Plaza calls requesting ambulance.
3:33 p.m. — First word of train in tunnel: 911 call from "caller on train" who says he is on Yellow Line train in tunnel that is filling with smoke.
3:39 p.m. — Another 911 call from train, caller says on train with smoke.
3:42 p.m. — Another 911 call from outside station, from person having trouble breathing.
3:42 p.m. — Repeat 911 call from an earlier caller from train. Caller asks if help is on the way. Train stuck and filling with smoke, caller says.
3:43 p.m. — Another 911 call from train.
3:44 p.m. — Metro advises train stuck on track with passengers.
3:44 p.m. — District battalion chief advises Metro has shut off power to track with stranded train.
3:45 p.m. — Two more 911 calls from train, one from a man, another from a woman, asking if help is on the way.
3:46 p.m. — D.C. Fire and EMS calls second alarm, dispatches more trucks.
4:09 p.m. — Battalion chief advises that one passenger is having a seizure and CPR is being conducted on an adult female.
4:12 p.m. — A District paramedic outside the station advises she is en route to the train.
4:25 p.m. — D.C. Fire and EMS advises it is enroute to George Washington University Hospital with a patient, CPR still in progress.