Fire Buffs promote the general welfare of the fire and rescue service and protect its heritage and history. Famous Fire Buffs through the years include New York Fire Surgeon Harry Archer, Boston Pops Conductor Arthur Fiedler, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and - legend has it - President George Washington.

Friday, December 08, 2006


(Photos from ACFD and The Washington Post)

A concrete slab collapsed Dec. 8 on the 24th floor of a high-rise building under construction in the Rosslyn district of Arlington County, trapping three workers and injuring a dozen more.

Arlington County firefighters - along with fire crews from the Fort Myer military post, the City of Alexandria and Fairfax County - treated the casualties. A surgical team from George Washington University Hospital also responded. The size of the alarm assignment was the equivalent of a general alarm fire.

The incident - at 1901 North Lynn St. - recalled high-rise construction accidents at job sites in Crystal City in 1968 and Bailey's Crossroads in 1974.

Construction worker Oscar Moscoso, who was on the roof of the high-rise, told reporters that a scaffold failed - triggering the collapse of wet concrete at about 8:30 a.m. Workers - who had planned a "topping-out" party later in the day - used their hands and shovels to reach the injured before firefighters and paramedics arrived.

Arlington County Fire Captain Tom Polera said an approximately 60 x 30 foot area of the roof collapsed onto the 24th, or top floor, of the building about 2 1/2 hours after workers began pouring concrete, according to The Washington Post.

During the rescue, a firefighter suffered a back injury.

Battalion Chief Scott McKay - Battalion 112 - was the incident commander.

Units assigned to the alarm, according to ACFD3.COM:

Engines: 102, 103, 105, 106, 108, 110, 161, 202

Trucks: 104, 208

Rescues: 104, 109, 206

Medics: 101, 102, 104, 105, 106, 109, 110, 202, 205, 208, 401, 418

Also: Command Unit, Hazmat 101, TRT 110, Hazmat 202, Mass Casualty Unit, Battalion 111, 112, FM 114, EMS Chief, Services Chief.

The Falls Church volunteers sent their canteen unit, Canteen 106.

Friday, July 28, 2006


The following tale is based on a speech by former President Gerald Ford on being Vice President of the United States.

In 1922, a general alarm fire broke out in the ballroom atop the Willard Hotel in Washington, and firefighters evacuated guests - including then Vice President Calvin Coolidge.

As the time passed, Coolidge grew tired of waiting in the street and decided to return to his hotel room.

As he headed for the stairs, a fireman demanded identification.

"I am the Vice President," Coolidge said.

The fireman asked: "Vice President of what?"

"Vice President of the United States," Coolidge said.

"Then get back here," the fireman said. "I thought you were Vice President of the hotel."

Coolidge, of course, went on the become president of the United States, earning a little more respect. 

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Falls Church warehouse fire
(Photo courtesy of

The Arlington County Fire Department contended with fire and flood in late June and early July 2006.

Firefighters employed master streams to extinguish a three-alarm warehouse fire in the 2000-block of North Westmoreland Street - just across from Station No. 6 in Falls Church - on July 15.

``Engine 106 arrived to find heavy fire blowing out of the Adam and Baker sides of a vacant one-story 75' X 150' former moving and storage warehouse,'' according to Capt. Randy Higgins on ``The second and third alarms were quickly sounded bringing virtually the entire on duty crews from Arlington and over 11 units from Fairfax County.''

Just over a week earlier, on June 30, firefighters tackled a two-alarm fire in a high-rise at 4250 North Fairfax Drive in Ballston - an alarm that initially came in as a medical emergency.

Instead of a patient, a building engineer greeted Engine 102 and Medic 102 and ``advised them of sparks coming from an electric panel in the main electric vault on the P-1 level,'' according to Higgins. ``Engine 102 called for the box to be filled ... and then proceeded to the fire control room where multiple devices on multiple floors were lighting up the panel! ''

Office workers on the 13th floor reported water pouring from the ceiling, and firefighters sent to the floor above - No. 14 - discovered heavy smoke and fire, which was promptly entinguished, according to Higgins.

Firefighters also answered hundreds of calls during the worst rain in more than 100 years of record keeping in late June.

The Arlington County Emergency Communications Center dispatched more than 580 service calls to police and fire units between 9 p.m. on June 25 and and 11 a.m. the next day, according to the county government web site.

Career and volunteer firefighters activated additional units to respond to all the alarms.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Foam 161 - Pentagon Heliport & Fort Myer

Foam 326 - Reagan National Airport

"Christine" - Old Reserve Truck

No. 3's "wagon" in Rosslyn

Old Wagon 9 and other apparatus

Old Truck 3

Old Falls Church firehouse

Light Unit & Utility 73 - Iwo Jima Memorial (1990)

Truck 106 on the job

Rescue Engine 324 - Reagan National Airport

Engine 3 - Cherrydale firehouse

Engine 3 refurbished as foam wagon

Quints 104 & 109

Old Engine 61 - U.S. Army Fort Myer

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


A Medstar helicopter that serves Arlington County and the rest of the metropolitan area crashed May 30, 2006, as it approached the Washington Hospital Center in the District of Columbia.

The medevac patient - already in grave condition - died hours later in surgery. The crash injured Medstar's three crew members.

According to The Washington Post, the Eurocopter - on a flight from Greater Southeast Community Hospital - plummeted onto a golf course on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home on North Capitol Street, Northwest, at about 5 p.m.

The pilot had transmitted a distress call.

"I could see [the helicopter] laboring," witness Jay Speights, who was getting out of his car at the golf course parking lot, told the Post.

According to a 2005 report on the Washington Hospital Center's web site, the helicopter service - which is operated by the hospital center - carried more than 36,000 patients ``with a perfect safety record since its inception in 1983.''

The Medstar service evacuated casualties from the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

The fleet consists of three EC-135 choppers, which have a cruising speed of 150 mph and a range of approximately 250 miles, according to the Medstar Transport web site. The standard flight crew consists of a pilot, critical care nurse and a critical care paramedic.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


By Captain Charles A. Gibbs

Arlington County Fire Department

On 24 May 2006, at 1058 hours Box 4603 was struck for a structure fire at 103 West Columbia Street, Columbia Baptist Church (Falls Church). This church is a large complex consisting of several different interconnected buildings fronting on four streets. The church houses and hosts quite a few ministries including 250 pre-school children. The fire was in a storage area above the pulpit area of the main sanctuary.

EMS 112 arrived on the scene within three minutes reporting smoke showing from the eves on the W. Jefferson Street side. He designated this side Adam and established command. He quickly called for a second alarm. Engine 106 arrived and stretched a handline to the second floor through a doorway on the Baker side, quadrant Adam. Truck 106 took a position on side David. They positioned the aerial to the roof and raised numerous ground ladders on side David and Baker. The crew proceeded inside to assist Engine 106. Engine 102 reversed laid a supply line for Engine 106 and the crew advanced the backup line from Engine 106 to the second floor.

Engine 418 (Fairfax County) established a secondary water supply in the parking lot across the street from the church. The crew proceeded to the second floor. Rescue 418 proceeded to the second floor to assist with extinguishment and checking extension. Engine 103 established the RIT side Adam at Engine 106. They surveyed all sides checking ground ladder placement.

Battalion Fire Chief 112, Blankenship, established the command post at the buggy across the street from side Adam. Truck 104 positioned on Side Charlie, raised the aerial to the roof and assisted with ventilation. BFC 111 was designated the interior division. Medic 102 established an aid station on the Adam side and later established the rehab division. Units on the interior had no difficulty locating and extinguishing the fire. The fire was knocked down in ten minutes and completely out in twenty minutes. There was no extension above the fire room.

The second alarm units were ordered to report to command on arrival. Engine and Truck 410 relieved Engine 106, Engine 102 and Truck 106 on the second floor. I do not know the other companies assignments.

The fire was in an area above the pulpit in a 15’ X 15’ concrete room. It was used for storage. The all concrete construction held the heat for quite awhile but it did not present any problems. The location of the fire room allowed for fairly quick smoke removal from the fire area but unfortunately it dissipated into the sanctuary.

As is found in a lot of churches the sanctuary was approximately 50’ high and proved challenging for smoke removal. Smoke removal was accomplished by strategically placing several positive pressure fans. There was some minor smoke travel in other areas of the church that mostly dissipated on its own. Fairly late in the operation a crew from 418 went to the roof to check for extension.

All building occupants including the 250 children self evacuated and were accounted for very early on in the incident. It must be stated that for the teachers to control and account for 250 children is a testament to their responsibilities. They maintained control of the children without incident.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Photo: US Air Force

The Arlington County Fire Department participated in a bio-terrorism exercise at the Pentagon on May 17, 2006.

The Defense Department issued the following account of the drill, written by Army Sergeant Sara Wood of the American Forces Press Service:

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency, Arlington County Fire Department, Red Cross, and other local and federal agencies participated in the exercise, dubbed "Gallant Fox 06," based on a scenario involving a suspected anthrax attack inside the Pentagon that triggered a sensor. In the scenario, testing was done and the presence of anthrax was confirmed.

Sixty-two Red Cross volunteers played the roles of affected Pentagon employees. They were evacuated out of the Pentagon to a decontamination site in the building's north parking lot. There they removed their "contaminated" clothing, took showers to rid themselves of any anthrax spores, and were given antibiotics to prevent infection. Some players also simulated special situations, like symptoms of anthrax infection or people with disabilities who needed assistance.

The exercise was a success, but the agencies did identify some areas where improvement is needed, said Arlington County Fire Chief Jim Schwartz. The decontamination of potentially contaminated people poses a challenge, he said, because right now the procedures are for people to remove their clothes outside, shower in a trailer, and come back outside.

"You can imagine what kind of circumstances we would be facing if this were a day in mid-winter, trying to do the kinds of things that we were doing," he said.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Station 1 - Glebe Road

Station 2 - Ballston

Station 3 - Cherrydale VFD

Station 4 - Clarendon (Special Services)

Station 5 - Crystal City

Station 6 - Falls Church
Station 7 - Fairlington

Station 8 - Hall's Hill
Station 9 - Walter Reed Drive

Station 10 - Rosslyn
Station 61 - U.S. Army Fort Myer

Pentagon Heliport

Reagan National Airport

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Light & Air 103 (right) at Pentagon 9/11 attack

At Iwo Jima Memorial, about 1990 

In service 1988 (as Light Unit 73.) Out of service 2016.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Robert Groshon, during his tenure as chief of department in the 1970s, advocated the use of ``safety yellow'' for the county's fire apparatus, replacing the traditional red. Yellow it remained into the 1990s, when a white with a yellow safety stripe scheme was adopted. Today, the fleet is again red.

RESCUE 104 & 109 -
``The rescues went in service January 1997 in `single pull status' (both #4 and #9 housed a truck and a rescue staffed by a single crew - call type determined which unit the crew took to the incident). The quint units were built in 1998, and placed in service during the fall of the same year. On the same day, Quints #4 and #9 were placed in service, E104 and E109 were placed into reserve status along with T104 and T109.'' - Battalion Chief Robert Gray

THE MYSTERY OF TRUCK 71 - When Fire Station No. 1 moved to its new quarters on South Glebe Road in the early 1990s, the lettering on the station identified it as the home of both Engine 71 and Truck 71. As it turned out, a full-time Truck 71 was never placed in service, and instead a reserve ladder - AKA ``Christine'' - was briefly parked in the apparatus bay. The lettering, however, remained in place for 15 years. (The station is now home to Engine 101, Medic 101, Hazmat 101 and Battalion 111. EMS 111 moved to Station No. 9. - Thanks to Lt. Nick Salameh of Engine 101)

THE NICKEL- Retired Capt. Stan Bowen reports that the firefighters at old Station No. 5 ``helped me decide that fire and rescue work would be an exciting and noble career after my stint in the Navy.'' Back in 1965, ``The Nickel'' ran less than 300 calls annually, according to Bowen, who retired after 31+ years as a career firefighter and is also a former member of Jefferson District VFD #5. Today, Station No. 5 - Crystal City - is a busy house!

OLD TRUCK 78 - ``In the early 80's Arlington disposed of three American LaFrance tiller trucks at auction. One of the trucks sold was a combination of Truck 74's 1965 tractor and Truck 78's 1963 trailer. The rig was purchased by the Paxtonia VFD located near Harrisburg, PA. The ladder truck ran for many years as Truck 34-1 in Paxtonia before allegedly being sold to a collector in Michigan. ... Thanks to ACFD Firefighter Ralph Parsons (and Paxtonia VFD member)

Friday, January 20, 2006


Arlington County and Fairfax County firefighters battled a two-alarm fire at the Falls Church Presbyterian Church on Jan. 28, 2006 - and saved a part of our local history.

``The blaze started about 11 a.m. in an outdoor trash can and spread into the building on East Broad Street, causing fire and water damage to ceilings, the choir room and administrative offices,'' The Washington Post reported.

Arlington County ECC (Emergency Communications Center) received multiple 911 calls and Battalion 112 radioed ``heavy smoke showing'' as he arrived on the scene.

According to the web site ``Units stretched lines to the second floor and attic area and made an impressive attack on the fire. The fire originated on the exterior and entered the huge stand-up attic via the soffit vents. An aggressive interior attack by the first alarm units saved this historic building from destruction.''

In his 1972 text "Fireground Tactics," Emanuel Fried wrote: ``Fires in old churches are extremely difficult to fight and constitute unusual dangers to operating forces. Once seriously involved, a church fire generally continues until the church is destroyed.''

Engines 106, 428, 418, 102 Truck 106, Tower 104, Rescue 418, Medic 106, Battalions 112, 404, EMS 112, FM 114

Engines 108, 103, 410, 413, Tower 401, Medic 418, 102, Light and Air 103, Battalion 111. The volunteers of Canteen 106 also assisted.



On Jan. 19, 2006, a three-alarm fire caused $200,000 damage at the Pentagon. The fire broke out in a kitchen on the third floor of the building and flames traveled to the roof.