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 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.