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.

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.