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, December 03, 2008


Photo: Airport web site

On Nov. 10, 2008, President-Elect Barack Obama paid a mysterious visit to Fire Station No. 301 at Reagan National Airport in Arlington after calling on President Bush at the White House.

It later emerged Obama was at the airport authority's firehouse for a secret meeting with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who agreed to remain as defense secretary in Obama's cabinet.

``They pulled the trucks out so that our cars could go in,'' said Gates, quoted by the Los Angeles Times. The Pentagon, like the airport, is located in Arlington County.

According to ABC News:

``Outside of Fire Station 301, there were numerous Secret Service agents, and when Obama returned about an hour later to board his American Airlines jet bound for Chicago, whoever had been meeting with him slipped out a back gate. Now we know.''

Or as CNN noted:

``Washington is full of seemingly obscure places where history is made. Deep Throat's parking garage, the balcony at Ford's Theater. Now you can add the fire station at Reagan National Airport.''

Friday, November 07, 2008


Photo: Library of Congress

Circus performer Beatrice Kyle - in repose on wheel of steam fire engine at Fort Myer in Arlington - between acts at the Society Circus for the benefit of the Army Relief Fund on April 25, 1924. She is wearing a high driving outfit.


Photo: Washington Post

On Sept. 18-19, 2003, Hurricane Isabel downed trees and power lines across Arlington County and the rest of the Washington metropolitan area.

Arlington County firefighters rescued a man trapped in his bed by a falling tree on Military Road. Thousands of homes and businsses went without electrical service for days.

The county issued a press release on Sept. 19 that said: ``Initial assessments include two homes destroyed; 36 homes with major storm damage, 141 with minor storm damage; and 43 cars flattened.''

The Civil Air Patrol provided an aerial assessment of the damage.

Fire Station No. 7 in Fairlington provided drinking water to residents of the Alexandria, where water supplies had been contaminated by the hurricane.


On Oct. 28, 2008, a construction worker digging to reach a water line died when he was buried by a pile of dirt in the 800-block of North Greenbrier Street. Arlington County firefighters were assisted by firefighters from Fairfax County.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Photo: Channel 7
On July 28, 2008, an apartment fire killed Lois Day, 84, on the seventh floor of 5535 Columbia Pike. The following units - from Arlington County and Fairfax County - responded to the mutual box: Engines 410, 101, 109, 102, Rescue 109, Truck 410, Tower 104, Medics 101 and 410, Battalion 111, EMS 111 and Safety 114, according to the web site of IAFF Local 2800.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


From Sun-Gazette
Sept. 9, 2008

A plan to augment Arlington County's seven emergency-medical services (EMS) ambulances with an eighth unit for peak times will have to wait until the government's budget situation improves.

Fire officials had hoped to bring the unit into service over the summer, but pulled back the idea due to “serious budget constraints,” Fire Chief James Schwartz said.

The proposed eighth unit, which would have operated weekdays when the system is most overloaded, was not included in the fiscal 2009 budget adopted by the County Board. But, given an increasingly high level of service calls, Schwartz earlier this year tried to find a way to add it.

“I tried to see if it was possible to create the additional unit with existing resources,” Schwartz told the Sun Gazette. “I ultimately determined that it wasn't possible.”

Schwartz cited increasing personnel costs, due to higher-than-anticipated turnover, for his decision to scrap the proposed eighth unit. He said he will wait until the fiscal 2010 budget process to request the new medic unit.

The extra unit has long been sought by some safety advocates and the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association, which represents many firefighters.

They point to “paramedic burnout” and the increasing number of times that the county government runs out of available medic units over the course of the year.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Photo: IAFF Local 2800 web site
734 North George Mason Drive - July 5, 2008


Old Wagon 2

Photos: and IAFF Local 2800 web site
21st Century: At 1130 N. Randolph St. on July 2, 2008

Arlington County Fire Station No. 2 - home of Engine 102, Medic 102 and EMS 112 - traces its roots to a volunteer fire company organized in 1904.

According to a history of the Ballston Volunteer Fire Department:

``The first registered agent of the BVFD was Mr. John Ball, a direct descendent of the John Ball who established a farm on land deeded to him by his cousin, George Washington. The farm was located near a crossroads which became known as Balls Crossroads.

``The BVFD first operated out of a garage belonging to one of the members, where the members would assemble when the bell was sounded, to pull the hand-pumped engine to a fire. The bell was located atop a pole alongside the trolley tracks at the intersection of Ballston Avenue and Fairfax Drive.

``In 1921 the permanent station was built on Ballston Avenue. When the County renamed streets and numbered houses the station address became 911 North Stuart Street.

``When Arlington County formally established the Arlington County Fire Department in 1940, the Ballston Fire Station was designated as Arlington County Fire Station No. 2.

``In 1976, the entire block where Fire Station 2 was located became the site for the new Glebe Road" Metro Rail station. At that time, only the BVFD and the Ballston Baptist Church still used the Ballston community name.

``The BVFD's negotiation with Metro and Arlington County provided for the construction of the new Fire Station 2 at 4805 Wilson Boulevard.

``In addition, the BVFD required the changing of the name of the Metro stop from Glebe Road Station to Ballston.''

Friday, July 18, 2008



In 1955, Arlington County issued bonds to finance the construction of fire stations.

Station No. 9, on South Walter Reed Drive, and Station No. 10, in Rosslyn, were the first stations actually owned and operated by the county government. The other stations were owned by volunteer companies.

Station No. 9 opened in 1957 and Station No. 10 opened in 1958.

Today, Station No. 3, in Cherrydale, is the last of the volunteer-owned firehouses in Arlington County.


The late Larry "Sally" Robey at the pump panel at a second alarm on South 8th Street in 1981. The 1977 GMC-Burco was part of a "two-piece" engine company - comprising a wagon and a pump - assigned to Station No. 9 on South Walter Reed Drive.


Exterior Attack
1944 Chevy-Oren at fire (circa 1960)

Friday, June 20, 2008


VINYL FIREFIGHTERS: Arlington County's Old Engine 72 served as backdrop for the ``Fanning The Flames" album by the blue grass band Dry Branch Fire Squad. This scene is at Station No. 2 on Wilson Boulevard in the late 1970s or early 1980s.


Photos: WUSA Channel 9
Lightning struck twice for the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority's fire department. In May 2008, Engine 327 caught fire during a pump test at the Fairfax County fire station in Chantilly. In October 2007, Rescue Engine 335 flipped over in Crystal City while responding to an alarm in the City of Alexandria.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


TRUCK 1 - This photo was submitted by Tim Eisner whose father - Walter J. Eisner, pictured to the left - delivered this 1966 American La France aerial to the Arlington County Fire Department.

Monday, June 09, 2008


Medic Units at Court House
PHOTO: Channel 4 News


On June 9, 2008, the Arlington County Fire Department responded to a Metrorail derailment on the Orange Line between Rosslyn and Court House. The six-car train - No. 905 - was bound for Vienna when its third car left the tracks at about 2:45 p.m. There were no injuries among the 400 passengers. Passenger Nina Janopaul, 50, quoted by The Washington Post, said firefighters escorted passengers to a rescue train that backed into the tunnel.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


On Feb. 26, 1954, diners abandoned their bacon and eggs just before a natural gas leak triggered an explosion and fire at a Cherrydale restaurant.

Newspaper accounts credited Arlington County firefighter Joe Fetzer - who was eating breakfast at the Rice Bowl Restaurant at 4032 Lee Highway - with evacuating the eatery.

A plumber raised a ladder to a second floor apartment, allowing two men and a woman to escape, according to a service station attendant who witnessed the explosion.


PHOTO: Alexandria Public Library

On Jan. 2, 1929, fire swept the Doniphan Building at 725 King Street in Alexandria's Old Town. Firefighters raised ladders and rescued residents.

The Washington Post said: ``Alexandria experienced its worst fire in years yesterday afternoon in the destruction of the Fairfax apartments, a four-story building at King and Columbus streets in the heart of the business district.''

Damage was estimated at $100,000.

It's likely the Town of Potomac - a section of Arlington County later annexed by the City of Alexandria - sent mutual aid as did Jefferson District, now known as Crystal City. The District of Columbia may have sent assistance, too.

The Potomac Fire Department was organized in 1924. It merged with the Alexandria Fire Department as a result of the annexation, and today its firehouse is the quarters of Alexandria Engine 202.


On March 5, 1930, flames gutted Abingdon Plantation, birthplace of Nellie Custis, the mother of Martha Washington. ``The Jefferson District Fire Department responded to the alarm, but was unable to lend any aid owing to the lack of water,’’ a newspaper account said. The house - built in 1695 along the Four Mile Run - had been in disrepair. Today, a plaque marks the site, which is on the grounds of National Airport.
PHOTO: Alexandria Public Library


On July 28, 1962, three Arlington County firefighters were injured in a two-alarm fire at the Spot Tavern.

The midnight fire - the third in less than a month at the tavern - broke out in a basement men’s room of the two-story frame structure, which also housed an apartment and six rented rooms.

Ray Evans, then deputy chief of the Clarendon Volunteer Fire Department, was among those injured and was admitted to Arlington Hospital, according to The Washington Post. A roomer was also injured in the fire.

The Spot Tavern was located at 1200 North Fort Myer Drive.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


PHOTO: Fox 5

On May 27, 2008, Arlington County firefighters recovered the body of a motorcyclist who swerved off a cliff on the George Washington Memorial Parkway about 12 hours earlier.

The body was hidden in brush along the Potomac River. The accident occurred north of Spout Run. A second and unrelated wreck nearby forced the closure of parkway.


On May 23, 2008, fire destroyed three buses parked at the Hilton Crystal City. Damage was estimated at $1.5 million. Battalion Chief Carol Saulnier of the Arlington County Fire Department attributed the cause of the fire to a diesel fuel leak, according to the Associated Press. About 150 guests were evacuated from the hotel at 2399 Jefferson Davis Highway.

PHOTO: Fox 5

Friday, May 23, 2008


``When the Pentagon dials 911, Arlington County answers.''

In May 2o08, Arlington County opened a new Emergency Communications Center for the fire and police departments.

New digital radio system

Arlington is the first jurisdiction in the region to install a digital radio system that adheres to Project 25, a new national standard of public safety interoperability. The new system will enable Arlington’s first responders to better communicate with our regional partners. More 9-1-1 lines – Tripled the number of 9-1-1 lines from 16 to 48 to increase call capacity. Also includes dedicated lines for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls.

­Digital Monitors

14 digital monitors enable ECC to monitor numerous video and data systems, including traffic and security cameras, mapping, and real-time status of utility outages; such inputs are essential for emergency management.

Enhanced emergency management

Arlington ECC is the first in the region to train all its ECC supervisors as sworn emergency managers.

Watch Desk

Monitors incidents and activate emergency protocols for events such as winter storms; major power outages; events with substantial first responder presence. Watch Desk Officers also activate the outdoor warning system and 1700AM Arlington emergency radio. Improved work conditions – Created a more comfortable environment to maximize productivity.


  • FIRE/EMS COMMUNICATIONS: 800 Mhz trunked

Wednesday, May 07, 2008




Review by MICHAEL DOYLE, MODESTO (California) BEE

ARLINGTON, Va. - Remember the Pentagon.

It burned, too, dismembered by the same terrorists who brought down the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center. Circumstances, though, have rendered the Pentagon a Sept. 11 afterthought. It's the place that survived.

At the World Trade Center, 343 New York City firefighters died. At the Pentagon, every firefighter returned home. But not all came back safe and sound. The Arlington County Fire Department subsequently lost 9 percent of its force to health-related retirements.

But still.

The FDNY battalions marched into the World Trade Center and were entombed there. The Arlington crews subdued a different beast, smaller but still lethal, and in their victory they've remained largely anonymous.

Until now.

Six years on, the Arlington firefighters and their compatriots are getting the accounting they deserve.

In "Firefight: Inside the Battle to Save the Pentagon on 9/11," authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman detail what happen- ed after American Airlines Flight 77 flew into the nation's military command center at 530 mph, killing 189 people, including the 64 people aboard the jet.

The plane hit at 9:37 a.m. It weighed 182,000 pounds, carried a bit less than 11,000 gallons of jet fuel and plowed forward, Creed and Newman write, "like a horizontal volcanic eruption." In eight-tenths of a second, the plane disintegrated. Six- hundred-thousand bolts and rivets blew out as shrapnel. The concussion rattled fire station doors nearly a mile away.

"What the (expletive) was that?" Arlington firefighter Derek Spector exclaimed.

"That was a (expletive) explosion," firefighter Brian Roche replied.

That's how firefighters talk. The way anyone talks when they have been hit in the gut.

Honest reporting prevails

There's a lot that can go awry in a big fire and rescue operation. Competing agencies can't communicate. Turf fights erupt.

Egos intrude. Honest reporting attends to these mishaps.

One example, recounted in "Firefight": An exhausted Arlington crew was resting in the Pentagon courtyard when several District of Columbia firefighters tried to steal the crew's air packs and face pieces.

About such perfidy, only one thing could be said.

"What the (expletive)?" Arlington fire Capt. Brian Spring shouted.

A lot, too, can go wrong in reporting such a story.

Misimpressions can coalesce into convenient anecdotes. The facts can grow soggy with sentiment. The fraternal order of those who were there fends off feelers from those who were not.

"Firefight" seems to get it right, as best I can tell.

Everything gets its proper measure. Mistakes happen, but steadfastness is the enduring virtue. At one point, an ailing firefighter sneaks behind an engine to vomit, knowing that if the medics see him, he'll be yanked off the biggest job of his career.

Technical competence is esteemed. When hulking Truck 105 couldn't fit through a Pentagon tunnel, officers cut the rear tiller cab off with an electric saw. The truncated vehicle squeezed through with two inches to spare.

Good management matters. By Sept. 21, incident commander Jim Schwartz, now the Arlington County fire chief, and his colleagues could relinquish control to the FBI. Arlington's deft crisis management is taught as a case study to Harvard Business School students.

Creed and Newman appear well-suited to capturing this story.

Creed is a volunteer firefighter and Army civil affairs officer.

He's obviously got heart. At one point, after Creed deployed to Iraq, he conducted one evening interview with an Arlington firefighter by satellite phone while his base was under mortar attack.

Newman is a reporter for U.S. News & World Report, a former Pentagon correspondent and the author of another book.

Faithful account of experiences

One of their Arlington sources is Capt. Joe Lightfoot, who once ran the fire station where I've ridden as a volunteer EMT since 2002. Hanging out in Station 2's kitchen, waiting for the emergency tones, Lightfoot and I have talked about, well, whatever: Iwo Jima, say, or Hillary Rodham Clinton's latest melodrama, or Led Zeppelin's personnel dynamics. In time, we also talked about the Pentagon. In every profane and poignant particular, Lightfoot's experiences as I heard them are faithfully recounted in "Firefight." So are many others.

Detail abounds here, and 486 pages may weigh down some readers. Inevitably, the drama that's white-hot at the beginning flags a bit by Day 8 or 9. It's a big story, though, and not just on the surface. It takes space to delve into an event so complicated. It takes space, too, to plumb the heart of a man; a man, say, such as Arlington Battalion Chief Bob Cornwell.

Cornwell fought in Vietnam a generation ago. Five months before Sept. 11, he had a tumor removed. His debilitating chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was barely done when the Pentagon was hit. He easily could have checked out of the fight. Instead, he was running all over the building, weighed down by 45-plus pounds of turnout gear and air pack. When he finally was ordered to rest at the command post, he declined. He'd stay with his men, "Firefight" recounts.

"Doing good, Joey," Cornwell told Lightfoot, as the Pentagon burned and the firefighters worked. "Doing good."

Remember: Steadfastness is a virtue. "Firefight" gives it its due.



Tuesday, May 06, 2008


On May 6, 2008, a small earthquake - a ``micro-quake'' - rattled Northern Virginia. The magnitude 1.8 temblor was centered near Annandale. There were no reports of damage or injury, according to the Arlington County Office of Emergency Management. The time of the quake was 1:30 p.m. EDT. The last major earthquake centered in Virginia occurred more than a century ago - on May 31, 1897 in Giles County in the southwestern part of the state.

Monday, April 07, 2008


Medic 325
Photo: Airport web site

It was a busy night for the Reagan National Airport Fire Department.

On April 3, 2008, a norovirus infection sickened a dozen travelers with nausea as they headed home from a conference in Maryland. The airport fire department - with the assistance of Arlington County paramedics - treated the victims who were apparently infected at the conference.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control:

``Noroviruses are a group of related, single-stranded RNA, nonenveloped viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis. ... People can become infected with the virus in several ways, including eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus; touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth; having direct contact with another person who is infected.''

Friday, April 04, 2008

DC RIOTS - 1968

40th Anniversary
In 1968, Washington, D.C. burned following the April 4 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis. Arlington County sent Wagons 2, 9 and 10, Engines 4 and 10, Truck 2 to aid the city's fire department. Disturbances broke out in sections of Arlington County as well.
Photo: Progressive Review

Thursday, April 03, 2008


Crystal City
1750 South Hayes Street
Arlington, VA 22202
Engine 105, Truck 105 & Medic 105

In 2008, the Arlington County Fire Department opened a new Station No. 5 in Crystal City - the latest in a series of firehouses to protect the community.

The original Company No. 5 was organized on Dec. 17, 1926, when the County Board of Alexandria County - as Arlington was then known - approved the charter of the Jefferson District Volunteer Fire Department.

The original company listed seven firefighters on its rolls and operated from a member’s garage at 206 Frazier Avenue - now 23rd Street South - in Aurora Hills.

In 1928, the volunteers opened a station at 101 Frazier Ave. (With the adoption of a new street naming scheme, the station was addressed 501 South 23rd St.)

During the early years, the members operated a hose wagon, a rescue squad and an ambulance.

In 1940, paid firefighters augmented the volunteers with the creation of the Arlington County Fire Department, and as time went on, the ACFD took over staffing of the engine company and ambulance.

In 1978, the original station was closed and firefighters moved to a station at 1750 South Hayes St., which is also the site of the new firehouse.

A monument stone from the original 1928 station - which was refurbished by Station 5 personnel - was placed at the new station, home of Engine 105, Truck 105 and Medic 105.

-Adapted from Arlington County Fire Department web site



PHOTO: Fire Lt. Jeff Kramer via

Box 7602 - April 19, 2008 - 5:37 a.m.

``Units arrived with heavy fire showing from an old balloon frame single family home with extension to the `Delta' exposure,'' according to ``A second alarm assignment and master stream devices brought the fire under control.''

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


Photo: U.S. Army

The Arlington County Fire Department received assistance from across the nation in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon.

Among those to answer the call to duty were rescue dog ``Gus'' - and his handler, Ed Apple of Tennessee Urban Search and Rescue Task Force No. 1.


On March 24, 2008, Arlington County firefighters used a fire extinguisher to freeze a rattlesnake that bit Andrew Bacas, crew coach at Yorktown High School. Bacas, 49, was unpacking his duffel bag after a team trip to South Carolina. A 10-inch-long rattler had stowed away in the bag - and bit his right hand. According to The Washington Post: ``Using a 10-foot pole, rescue workers gingerly unzipped the duffel bag, just enough to slip in the nozzle of a carbon dioxide extinguisher.''


On April 27, 1945, a Page Airways passenger flight crashed at National Airport:

Washington, April 27 -- (AP) -- A transport plane en route from Miami, Fla. to Rochester, N. Y., crashed and burned in taking off at the national airport today killing two persons and injuring a number of others.

A civil aeronautics administration official said the plane, operated by Page Airways, was carrying 13 persons including the pilot and co-pilot.

Coroner's deputies identified the dead as:

MRS. J. WELLAN, of New York City.
RALPH WEISMAN, Forest Hills, Long Island.

Names of the injured were not immediately available.

An officer at the army dispensary at the airport said 11 persons were taken there for treatment.

Airport attaches said the plane was on a chartered flight and had stopped at the airport for fuel.

Monday, March 31, 2008


Alexandria Fire Station No. 1 - Old Town

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Alexandria Fire Department participates in the Northern Virginia regional response plan and regularly answers alarms in Arlington County.

­Washington Examiner

The Alexandria Fire Department is critically short of staff and equipment and needs $5.5 million - which Alexandria is ill-equipped to spend - to bring it up to speed, a city-hired consultant has found.

City Manager James Hartmann hired consultant J. Gordon Routley in the wake of an August three-alarm fire at a high-rise condo building on Edsall Road in which three firefighters were hospitalized for smoke inhalation and dehydration and three more were injured.

"Alexandria's increasing population density, commercial activity, traffic and related factors are placing increasing demands on the fire department," Routhley wrote. "The fire department has innovated, reorganized and adapted to make the most efficient use of its resources. The resulting organization is very lean and its resources are stressed to meet normal day-to-day demands."

In February, the state cited the department for procedural failures, including that the first firefighters at Edsall Road fought the fire for one continuous hour instead of in 15-minute shifts as outlined in department procedures, "apparently due to staffing issues."

Routley, a fire investigation expert and former fire chief, details a laundry list of staffing, equipment and procedural issues that contributed to the injuries.

Most significantly, he noted a need for a minimum of four-person staffing on fire trucks instead of Alexandria's three-person minimum - an initiative Arlington County already has phased in. Fairfax and Prince William counties also are trying to add firefighters, but are suffering from budget woes.

Meeting the consultant's recommendation would require hiring 36 new firefighters and would cost the city more than $3 million.

Alexandria, as well as most jurisdictions in the area, is struggling to maintain its current programs in a tight budget year.

The Aug. 25, three-alarm fire at Edsall Road happened at the same time as two other multiple-alarm fires in the area, all of them sparked by thunderstorms.

The high number of incidents was one reason that the first firefighters to respond to the Edsall Road scene were not relieved by backup personnel quickly enough to avoid injury, but inadequate department communication also contributed, Routley said.

The department does not have a command vehicle - a $250,000 specialized vehicle equipped with radios, computers and meeting space.

"An environment that provides multiple radios, telephones, work stations with computer terminals, proper lighting and other enhancements is much more functional than standing at the rear of an SUV in a crowded parking lot," Routley said.

"It's a very sobering report," Vice Mayor Del Pepper said. "I had no idea that we had these needs - we knew some of these things, but certainly not the extent."

Mayor William Euille said the City Council will review the financial impact of the recommendations at April budget meetings.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Photos: Channel 5, Channel 9

On March 13, 2008, the District of Columbia Fire Department requested mutual aid from Arlington County and other suburbs for a fire that swept an apartment building and church.

Firefighters encountered "heavy, heavy fire" at the general alarm in the Mt. Pleasant section of the city, D.C. Fire Chief Dennis Rubin said at a news conference.

Friday, March 07, 2008


Photos: Channel 7 WJLA web site
On March 7, 2008, a house fire killed an elderly woman in Arlington County and injured a firefighter. According to Channel 4, firefighters ``found the victim in her bed.'' 

The Washington Post reported the injured firefighter ``fell through the second floor of the structure while battling the blaze.''

Battalion Chief Carol Saulnier, quoted by the Post, said firefighters were called to the 5500-block of South 4th Street at 5:30 a.m.

They found two people sitting outside the house with minor injuries who told them a third person was still inside.

The elderly woman's body was recovered on the first floor of the dwelling.

The firefighter's injuries weren't considered life-threatening.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Old Arlington Hall

By David Shultz
The Connection newspaper

A PIECE of weaponry dating back to the Civil War was discovered underneath a local Arlington building.

The weaponry consisted of an unexploded shell from the mid-1800’s. It was discovered on the evening of Jan. 31 underneath Arlington Hall which is located on Route 50 between Glebe Road and George Mason Drive.

Benjamin Barksdale, the Chief Fire Marshall for Arlington County, said that “They were doing some construction work and one of the construction people found it and called 911… You could clearly see it was a shell. It was one foot long, five inches in diameter. It looked like a large bullet.”

He said that County fire officials were unsure if the shell was live but, as a precautionary measure, the workers who were in the building above the shell were temporarily moved to another part of the building.

Because the shell was found on federal property, Barksdale said that bomb experts from Fort Belvoir were brought in to handle the shell.

The Arlington County Fire Department has handled buried munitions before, Barksdale said, but “Not like that… We’ve come across more modern day stuff. Every once in a while we’ll get a call that someone has got something from [the] Vietnam [era].”

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


On Nov. 28, 1982, tourists visiting Arlington National Cemetery discovered the charred body of a man at the grave of President John F. Kennedy - lying three feet from the eternal flame, The New York Times said. Police determined the man was intoxicated and had been trying to light a cigarette with a rolled newspaper.

Thursday, February 07, 2008



Old bell at Station No. 4

Heart attacks from stress are a leading cause of firefighter deaths, so the Arlington County Fire Department has found a safer way to ease firefighters into emergencies - a soothing computer-generated voice over firehouse public address speakers.

Rather than the blast of an airhorn, a piercing radio tone or a bell jolting them into action, firefighters are alerted by a calm female voice - "Engine Company, structure fire" for example - followed by full details announced by a live 911 dispatcher.

Battalion Chief Ben Barksdale said the system has improved response times because firefighters aren't startled, according to Channel 5 News.

Regarding the ``soothing alarm,'' a Fire Journal reader - who grew up in Ohio many years ago - writes:

``Even as a kid, my heart always took a jump when Columbus rang four quick blows on a bell - sharp and loud - over the radio as a prefix to a structural response.They changed it some years later to a tone, that was only slightly less terrifying.''

Monday, March 10, 2008

By Daniela Deane
Washington Post Staff Writer

Jesus Escobedo is nodding off atop his Batman sheets when the little red lights flip on, casting a low light across his face. A woman's voice informs him gently, almost seductively, that it's time to get up. An alert is going out because an elderly nursing home patient is on the edge of death.

"Engine, medic, altered level of consciousness," the voice tells the Arlington County firefighter as he jumps out of his bed at the Ballston firehouse. In a matter of minutes, Escobedo is dressed and hurtling down Carlin Springs Road toward the nursing home.

"One minute you're sleeping, and the next minute you're going 50 miles an hour," said Escobedo, 27, sitting in the firetruck, sirens blaring, on his way to the 911 call last week. "And it can happen several times a night. It's a lot better when the waking up part is a little bit nicer."

A firefighter's job can be very stressful, involving long shifts, emotionally draining work and a response time measured in seconds, often many times a night. To reduce the cumulative stress on their 315 firefighters and paramedics, Arlington was one of the first jurisdictions in the Washington region to install kinder, gentler wake-up calls in its 10 firehouses.

"Before we put this in, fluorescent lights would snap on overhead, lighting up the whole place, and there would be this loud, shrill, rapid-fire beeping," said Capt. Randy Higgins, an Arlington firefighter for 24 years and Escobedo's shift supervisor. "You'd go from sound asleep to your heart beating wildly in your throat several times a night."

The consequences can be alarming.

Cardiac arrest -- not fighting fires -- is the leading cause of death among the estimated 300,000 full-time firefighters throughout the country, said Patrick Morrison of the International Association of Fire Fighters. Morrison, assistant in charge of education and training at the union, said that more than 50 firefighters die each year of heart attacks.

"The big thing we're seeing is that loud, sudden sounds give them a huge adrenaline dump," he said. "And the cumulative effect of that is contributing to early heart disease."

Morrison said studies have shown that heart rates more than double when firefighters, even the youngest, most fit ones, are roused by loud sounds and lights. Arlington is at the forefront of a national trend toward less jarring wake-up calls at firehouses, he said.

"When you go through that surge of adrenaline as many times as we do, it's worth making these kinds of investments in a system that diminishes that effect just a little bit," Arlington Fire Chief James Schwartz said.

Arlington installed its system in 2004, just six months after the city of Manassas Park. Since then, Prince William and Stafford counties have opted for the system, which is sold by several vendors.

Other local fire departments, including Fairfax, want to make the switch as they upgrade their facilities or their budgets allow it.

With the economic downturn, it is unclear when funds will be approved for the county to install the system in its 38 fire stations, Fairfax Battalion Chief Dean Cox said. "It's becoming the standard in the Metro area," he said.

Besides a healthier wake-up, the system has other advantages.

It's targeted, so it alerts only the crew needed on a specific call, not everyone in the firehouse. And the computer-activated system is faster, so it shaves important seconds off response time. The firefighters are usually already running toward their vehicles by the time they hear where they're going.

"It might save them 10 to 15 seconds," said Carol Saulnier, Arlington's chief fire marshal. "That might not seem like a lot, but it can really make the difference between life and death."

Arlington's average response time -- from the moment the dispatcher advises the firefighters to the time they get to their destination -- is four minutes, which is better than the national standard. Arlington firefighters and paramedics answered 24,215 emergency calls in 2007; Escobedo's station in Ballston took 5,565 of those calls.

Schwartz gets excited about another feature of the system: the ability of one jurisdiction to directly dispatch firefighters from another. That won't work until everyone is on the same page, though.

"Several times a day already, units from Fairfax run into Arlington to serve our citizens who dial 911 on the west end of Columbia Pike, since the closest unit to a good deal of that portion of Arlington is in Baileys Crossroads," said Schwartz. "When Fairfax comes online with the system, we will be able to alert them from our own dispatch center, which could cut up to a couple minutes off our response time."

Schwartz said that "response time is everything" in the emergency services business. "If you're in cardiac arrest, you need CPR within four minutes," he said.

A few decades ago, volunteer firefighters in many rural communities across the country would be roused from beds in their own homes by loud wailing sirens that would wake up the whole area.

Then came the night-watch method of alert, where firefighters would take turns staying up to answer a dispatcher's call on the phone and then wake up the rest of the team. Or one firefighter would sleep next to the phone and have the responsibility of answering it and waking everyone up. After that, the radio-based system with the loud, shrill beep-beep prevailed.

Still, in some fire departments in the country, every time there's a call, every fire station in the area gets notified, according to the IAFF.

Escobedo, who's only worked with the new system, admits he's got the sultry woman's voice turned up as high as it goes. He said he tends to be a heavy sleeper.

Is there any worry that it's all just a little too gentle?

"Nah," said Higgins. "There's a lot of peer pressure to get up quickly in this job. You don't want to be the guy who slept through the alarm. You get called Rip Van Winkle and stuff like that. You never live it down."


Aircraft rescue and firefighting drill at National Airport - 2007

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Harold LeRoy, long-time president of the Arlington County Fire and Rescue Association, died Jan. 22, 2008. He would have celebrated his 91st birthday on Feb. 1, 2008.

Firefighters - both career and volunteer - addressed him as "Mr. LeRoy'' as a sign of respect. He remained active with the volunteer association, the fire department historical society and the ``Chowder Club'' until his passing.

Mr. LeRoy joined the Jefferson District Volunteer Fire Department in the late 1930s, and during the manpower shortages of World War II was sworn in as a member of the Arlington County Fire Department - though he never collected a paycheck.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Beth.

Mr. LeRoy, who also served as chief of the Jefferson District VFD when he was younger, enjoyed sharing stories of his career, including his many runs on old Squad 5.

Recalling the 1959 general alarm at the Pentagon, LeRoy said one image that remained with him into old age was that of a paid firefighter, Eddie Dodson, emerging from the smoke-charged basement of the massive building covered in soot. ``He sat down on the running board of the wagon – and promptly lit a cigarette,’’ LeRoy chuckled.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Modern fire dog

Many years ago, Murph - "The Fire Engine Dog" - resided at Old Station No. 2 in Ballston, and we are told that when the bells went off, Murph was the first one to hop on the wagon - even before the firemen.

After one fire call, Murph climbed on the wrong engine and went back to another firehouse. The firemen at the other station knew him, though, and phoned No. 2. ``We have Murph. Come and get him," they said.

There are no active canines in Arlington County firehouses as of this writing.



Photo: Station 28 web site

Photo: Fox 5

A three-alarm fire erupted in a 12-story apartment building in Seven Corners on Jan. 12, 2008. More than 100 Fairfax County and Arlington County firefighters raced to the blaze triggered by a natural gas explosion. The alarm went out as a seemingly routine medical local for Engine 428.

According to The Washington Post: ``The initial call came in at 7:52 a.m. as a suicide attempt at the Cavalier Club Apartment on Wilson Boulevard. But when rescuers arrived, they found a natural gas leak that led to an explosion in a second floor apartment.''

The Fairfax County Fire Department said in a press release: "Firefighters encountered heavy smoke and fire in Apartment 211 (and) brought the fire under control in approximately 15 minutes."

Mark Williams, 39, a resident who suffered severe burns, died at the Washington Burn Center on Jan. 13. Five people, including three police officers who assisted with the rescue, were treated for smoke inhalation.