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.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Old Fire Station No. 6 at Falls Church, Virginia

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


On Nov. 25, 2009, James Bea, a 24-year employee of the Arlington County public works department, was electrocuted at the site of a watermain break at Old Glebe Road and Glebe Road. Another worker was seriously injured.
Photos: Channel 5 television and Arlington County Government

Thursday, November 19, 2009


David Povlitz: Appointed October 2018. Veteran of Anne Arundel County and City of Alexandria fire departments. Holds Master of Science in Management and bachelor of Science in Fire Science from University of Maryland

James Bonzano:  Appointed May 2016. Veteran paramedic. Led EMS  branch at Sept. 11, 2001 attack on Pentagon. Served in variety of command positions including deputy chief, personnel services section chief, EMS battalion chief, EMS captain. Master’s degree from Marymount University in Organizational Leadership and Innovation. Retired 2018.

James Schwartz: Appointed fire chief in June 2004. As assistant chief for operations led unified command at Sept. 11, 2001 attack on Pentagon. Tapped as as county Director of Emergency Management in April 2003 until his appointment as Fire Chief. Appointed deputy county manager in August 2015. 
Edward Plaugher: Led department during Sept. 11, 2001 attack on Pentagon. Credited with having foresight to plan for potential terrorism. Established two heavy rescue and two quint companies. Named "Career Fire Chief of the Year" by Fire Chief Magazine in 2004. Veteran of Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department.

Thomas Hawkins:  Advocated diversity and training. Oversaw opening of county fire academy campus and Glebe Road fire station. Served as program manager at National Fire Academy prior to appointment. Associate professor of fire services at Northern Virginia Community College. Appointed City of Alexandria Fire Chief in 1993.

Robert Groshon: Hired nation's first female career firefighter. County's first paramedic units placed in service on Groshon's watch. Played key role in establishment of Northern Virginia automatic mutual aid plan. Advocated safety yellow color scheme for fire apparatus.

Joseph Clements: Oversaw post World War Two expansion of fire department, including opening of Fire Stations 9 and 10.  Supervised operations at 1959 Pentagon fire.  

Albert Scheffel: Appointed first fire marshal in 1927. Appointed to new post of fire chief in 1930s. Hired first paid firefighters from the county's volunteer ranks in 1940.


Photo: U.S. Government
Arlington County firefighters and paramedics transfer patients to the U.S. Park Police helicopter "Eagle 2" at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Friday, November 06, 2009


Photo: Arlington County web site
Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine meets Arlington County firefighters at ceremony in 2006. Rescue 104 is in the background.


Arlington County ECC - Emergency Communications Center

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Dec. 7, 2008 - Two-alarm fire at 124 Rolling Trace, Falls Church

Friday, August 28, 2009


Buck Cumberland (left) served for many years as chief of the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department in Arlington County, Virginia. His brother, Tuck, was chief of the Ballston Volunteer Fire Department, also in Arlington.
Photo: Cherrydale VFD


Fire at concrete plant, 2006

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Photo: Falls Church Volunteer Fire Dept. web site
Crews on the scene of an April 1974 fire at the old Woodlawn School, which was located at 4715 North 15th Street. Today, the old school building is occupied by the Capital Hospice in-patient unit. Woodlawn School was merged into the H-B Woodlawn school in Cherrydale in 1978.


By Lynn Darling
Washington Post
April 24, 1977

About 40 Arlington firefighters and the County Board got together to discuss hair lengths yesterday and, while the issue wasn't resolved quite as decisively as the Samson v. Delilah encounter, it managed to generate nearly the same intensity.

For about a month now, the country firefighters have been under orders to keep their hair - even when disheveled - above their ears and shirt collars under pain of suspension from the force.

Although no one has yet been suspended for non-compliance, the members of the Arlington professional mounted an energetic campaign to get the regulation rescinded.

Yesterday they went to the County Board's bi-weekly meeting armed with a lawyer Firefighters' Association have from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), about 50 formal grievances filed by members of the force and a petition signed by more than 1,000 Arlington County residents protesting the regulation.

The Controversy also brought a letter of support from Arlington Del. Ira M. Lechner and a message from Del. Marry A. Marshall (D-Arlington) delivered in person by Del. Warren G. Stambaugh (D-Arlington) who added a few words of his own. 

Marshall, Stambaugh said, asked the Board members to consider the fact the Commonwealth of Virginia was "found by long-haired cavaliers" who fled England to escape Oliver Cromwell's roundheads.

County Board meetings in Arlington are usually rather fervent affairs in which the room fills up quickly with ardent citizens who can debate trash collections and site plan amendments for hours with passionate intensity.

Throughout meetings the Board members sit benignly under the watchful eye of County Manager Vernon Ford whose impassivity has been known to remain intact through raucous laughter and righteous indignation alike.

Not yesterday, however.

Before the Board ultimately decided to follow Ford's advice that the hair regulation was an administrative matter that the Board should not take a position on, Ford found that calm reason alone would not carry him through the day.

After listening to the firefighters' lawyer, David Rosenfeld, exceed his allotted five minutes by about 20 more of the same, Ford said, "I find I just have to express this feeling.I don't want to bottle it up any longer. I feel that you (the County Board) have been abused and I have been abused (by the length of Rosenfeld's presentation) and I don't think it's right."

Rosenfeld challenged Fire Chief Robert F. Groshon's contention that the new regulations were needed to protect the men from harm while they were doing their jobs and handed out copies of other jurisdictions' hair length regulations.

These allow hair lengths at least two inches longer than the Arlington edict.

"Not one of the firemen here today wants to go into a fire and commit suicide," Rosenfeld said.

In addition, Rosenfeld said he saw a certain contradiction in the department's concern for the men's safety.

"Hair does not burn," he said. "It singes or it melts, but it does not burn."

The attorney set a strand of hair on fire to prove the point.

After the hair demonstration, Rosenfled set fire to a piece of blue cloth that he said came from an Arlington County firefighters' uniform, which was worn on the job.

The material was soon blazing in a nearby ashtray.

Groshon, on the other hand, contested the firefighters' assertion that they should be able to wear their hair in any style as long as it was covered by the liners of their helmets, shick extend slightly below their ears.

Presenting the Board with pictures of his men in action, Groshon said that the firefighters do not wear their liners over their ears on duty and that it was his job to make sure that a person carried out of a burning building isn't dropped because a firefighter's hair was on fire."

Groshon said that one reason ascribed was because "my son has long hair and I can't get him to cut it."

Groshon said, however, that he would force his son to cut his hair if he got a job with the Arlington County Fire Department.

"This is the judgment you have to make," Groshon told the Board members. It was up to them to decide, he said, "whether I'm doing my job right. We could have like mine, but I understand the men wanting to be stylish."

On the urging of the County Board both sides agreed to continue the discussions in an effort to reach a compromise.

In addition, Groshon agreed to delay suspending any firefighters who didn't comply with the order for at least five days.

On a 4-to-1 vote, with John Purdy dissenting, the Board decided not to intercede in the controversy over the fire department's hair length regulation and left the final decision to Ford and Groshon.

After it was all over, the firefighters remained hopeful that their visits to the barbershop would not soon be increasing in frequency.

"We just want to fit into our communities and not stick out of place," said firefighter Albert Stutz.

The Board went into executive session.

The boys went out for a beer. 

Friday, June 26, 2009


On Aug. 23, 1987, an underground transformer exploded in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn in Rosslyn, ``sending a billowing tower of flames and black smoke high into the air,'' The Washington Post reported. Firefighters expressed concern about exposure to the chemical PCB used in the transformers at the hotel at 1850 Fort Myer Dr.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Jackson City - a notorious strip once located along the Potomac River, near the current Boundary Channel Drive and Jefferson Davis Highway - was a fire trap.

Nicknamed the ``The Monte Carlo of America,'' the settlement featured all the ingredients for a memorable night on the town - saloons, gambling houses, bordellos, vice dens and a race track.

On July 14, 1902, flames swept a row of card parlors, as The Washington Post reported:

``Fire that originated in a policy shop last night wiped out every gambling house in Jackson City, at the Virginia end of the Long Bridge. (It) was not much of a fire when it started - a bucketful of water would have quenched it - but the habitues were so absorbed at the roulette wheel and faro table that they refused to put cut the blaze.''

District of Columbia firefighters doused the flames, the shops were repaired - and the games returned.

Fire also visited Jackson City on Nov. 30, 1893, and the next day's Washington Post said:

``Monte Carlo, the notorious resort at Jackson City, is in ashes. About 11:30 o'clock last night fire broke out in one of the row of frame buildings occupied by the free and easy, and before the flames could be checked almost the entire row was destroyed. The fire started in James Wells' one-story building on the west side of the road.''

The final fire broke out in 1904 when a band of vigilantes - ``The Good Citizens League'' - cleared out the undesirable elements and set much of Jackson City alight, according to the Arlington County Historical Society.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

LUNA PARK - 1915

On April 19, 1915, fire destroyed the roller coaster at Luna Park, a forgotten amusement park which was located in the vicinity of Glebe Road and Jefferson Davis Highway.

``The origin of the fire is thought to have been from sparks from a blaze in the woods adjoining the park,'' The Washington Post reported. `` The flames spread through the woods, destroying a considerable section. No estimate was placed on the loss.

``The fact that the structure destroyed was isolated from others of the park and the wind blowing away from them in all probability prevented the destruction of every building on the grounds,'' the Post reported.

According to a history of Arlington County, posted on the county's web site:

``This amusement park, located in the area where Glebe Road meets Route 1, was built in 1906 for more than $350,000. It claimed facilities for 3,000 picnickers as well as a large ballroom, restaurant and circus arena.

``Exhibits were housed in large buildings of various styles -- Gothic, Moorish, and Japanese. A 'shoot-the-chutes' with a 350-foot incline was a leading attraction. The park was eventually damaged by fire and dismantled in 1915.''

At that time, the closest fire stations were located in the City of Alexandria and the District of Columbia.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


About 2oo U.S. Army horses were saved from a stable fire at Fort Myer on Oct. 24, 1925. The blaze was ``started by a short circuit in the electric wiring in Battery A stables'' and ``destroyed the stable and because of lack of water threatened to spread to surrounding buildings housing artillery equipment,'' according to the next day's Washington Post.


Ballston Volunteer Fire Department, circa 1920s

Clarendon was the scene of a general alarm fire in September 1924.

``Fire yesterday afternoon in the home of Miss A.L. McCoy, 307 Popular avenue, Clarendon, caused a loss of $3,000,'' The Washington Post reported on Sept. 13 of that year.

``Fire companies irom Cherrydale, Ballston, Arlington and Clarendon found the roof in flames and seeing several frame houses close by in danger, a second alarm was sounded, bringing out all the apparatus in Arlington County,'' the newspaper said.


``A concerted effort is being launched in Arlington County to apprehend the person who is calling out the fire apparatus on false alarms. The second false alarm within a week was turned in Monday night, calling the engines to the Texaco Oil Company in Rosslyn.''

- The Washington Post
Sept. 26, 1923

Friday, May 08, 2009


Oct. 23, 1916


Engine and Hose Wagon Sent to Fight Blaze Across River.

Late yesterday Afternoon Engine Company, No. 5, and the hose wagon of Truck Company, No. 5, went to Rosslyn, Va., on orders of Chief Wagner for a fire of undetermined origin in a two-story stable owned and occupied by W.O. Pickett.

In days of old, the District of Columbia Fire Department sometimes made runs into Rosslyn, just across the Potomac River from Georgetown via the old Aquaduct Bridge. Chief Frank J. Wagner (mentioned in the newspaper excerpt) was chief of the D.C. Fire Department from December 1908 to September 1920.

Monday, April 27, 2009



Photo: Fox TV web site
On April 26, 2009, firefighters from the District of Columbia and Arlington County scoured the Potomac River between Chain Bridge and Key Bridge for an 11-year-old boy who fell into the river south of Chain Bridge. His body was found more than a week later. He had been fishing from the shore. D.C. Fireboat No. 2 is pictured above. The body of a fisherman, who was reported missing by his family after he failed to return home, was also located several days later. He jumped into the Potomac to rescue the boy, police said.

Monday, April 13, 2009

2111 JEFF DAVIS - 1979


Photos: Courtesy of Larry Patterson
These are images of a high-rise apartment fire at 2111 Jefferson Davis Highway in Crystal City in February 1979 photographed by Larry Patterson, who served as a fire department volunteer.

Arlington County firefighters said the blaze looked like a ``towering inferno'' and had the intensity of a ``blowtorch.''

Lt. John Walker, of Truck 79, suffered severe respiratory injuries that ultimately led to his retirement. Patterson said Walker may be the firefighter on the hose line in the top photo. Several other firefighters suffered lesser injuries.

For 90 minutes, crews struggled against the flames. ``We were fighting a losing battle,'' said Assistant Fire Chief John Spink, quoted by The Washington Post.

Retired Fire Capt. Howard Piansky was one of the first firefighters to arrive at the blaze and provided this account of the incident:

``I was the wagon driver for 5A and we were of course first in ... The engine pulled up with nothing showing and the crew composed of Captain Rahner and firefighters Piansky, Tabscott and Cooper, with McPherson and Orgel on Rescue 5. McPherson came running into the lobby after the engine company and reported fire showing.

``Hooking up to the standpipe, the crew proceeded towards the apartment on fire when the evacuation alarm sounded, bringing scores of people out into the heavy, down-to-the-knees smoke. (That) caused us to abandon extingushment and make numerous rescues. Several crew members were injured ... and a flashover in the hallway had a least one medic thrown down the stairs.''

Courtesy of retired Capt. Howard Piansky

Monday, March 02, 2009


Battalion Chief Wilber "Gabby" Gray at the wheel of the chief's buggy at the Drill School. The vehicle is a 1967 Ford Ranch Wagon - topped by a ``bubble gum machine."


Photo: IAFF Local F-253
Engine 161 - Fort Myer - 1984 KME/2007 Pierce Dash

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


On Jan. 16, 2009, a fire destroyed a reserve pumper housed at "The Hut" at the Arlington County Fire Training Academy on South Taylor Street.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009



Arlington County firefighters were on the scene in the nation’s capital on Jan 15, 1953 – Black Thursday – as the D.C. Fire Department contended with almost simultaneous disasters – a runaway locomotive that plowed into the concourse of Union Station, and an explosion that leveled the Standard Tire and Battery Store.

Train No. 173, the Pennsylvania Railroad's Federal Express, was carrying passengers to Washington for the inauguration of President Dwight Eisenhower. The engineer attempted to slow the train, which had been traveling at about 80 mph, two miles from the station, but the primary as well as the emergency brake failed, according to to the website

The engineer stayed at the controls sounded his horn as a warning. The operator at the tower at Union Station heard to horn blasts and told the stationmaster to evacuate the station. Minutes later, the ``GG1'' electric locomotive and two cars crashed through a stop block and a wall, slid across the concourse and plunged into a basement baggage room. Eighty-seven people were injured in the accident.

``With the inauguration just days away and with thousands of visitors scheduled to arrive, the station had to be repaired quickly,'' according to ``By 7 AM the next day, the cars, which had fallen through the floor, had been removed. The GG1 was left in the baggage room, a temporary floor was built over the locomotive, and the station was opened just three days after the accident.''

At the battery store, a minor fire triggered an explosion that injured more than 40 D.C. firefighters, including Fire Chief Millard Sutton, who fell through the floor into the basement, according to a history of the D.C. Fire Department. Fortunately, there were no deaths. The battery store was located about 10 blocks from Union Station, and many of the injured firefighters had been at the train wreck earlier in the day. Fire apparatus was also damaged in the blast at the battery store.

Miraculously, there were no fatalities aboard the train or inside the terminal, which was evacuated moments before impact.


Photos: Channel 7

On Jan. 6, 2009, Arlington County firefighters rescued 16 people from the windows of a burning apartment building near Rosslyn. There were a number of injuries and several victims required hospitalization .

At least two others jumped, according to news reports, and witnesses said a child was dropped or passed from a window before firefighters arrived at the two-alarm blaze. Engine 103's crew carried an unconscious man from the building.

The fire, which was reported at 4:47 a.m., started in the basement storage room of the three-story building in the 1500-block of Fairfax Drive. Firefighters from Fort Myer and Fairfax County, as well as paramedics from the City of Alexandria, were also dispatched with the crews from Arlington County.

Battalion Chief Benjamin Barksdale, quoted by Channel 7, said residents ``couldn't make it down the main entrance - all the smoke from the basement had been pouring out into the stairwell. … There was no way they could have come down the stairs.''

The evening before, many of the same firefighters attended a two-alarm blaze that gutted a townhouse at 1180 North Vermont Street near Ballston.