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, April 26, 2011

LAZO FIRE - 1934

Two days before Christmas in 1934, two children perished in a house fire in Arlington County - a holiday tragedy that would be repeated a decade later.

Richard Lazo, 7, and his sister Peggy, 3, were alone on the second floor of the family's two-story frame home on Malvern Place in Thrifton Village, according to The Washington Post.

(Malvern Place is no longer on the map. The Arlington Fire Journal first learned of this fire from the late James Fought, a former volunteer and retired battalion chief, who said the fire was on North Edgewood Street.)

Neighbors turned in the alarm at 8:50 p.m. on Dec. 23, 1934.

Flames poured from the windows when the first engines arrived.

Clarendon Fireman George Watts found little Peggy Lazo in her crib "gasping from the smoke," and Captain Orlando Crigbaum carried her outside, according to The Post. She died enroute to Georgetown Hospital.

Fireman Watts then located the body of Richard Lazo, who "left his bed and in his terror wandered straight into the flaming rooms," the newspaper reported.

The parents, Manuel and Annette Lazo, were located at Lazo's real estate office on Wilson Boulevard in Clarendon. The residents of the first floor, Mr. and Mrs. W.C. Jansen's, were at church.

Sixty firefighters and "all available fire apparatus in the county rushed out to fight the fire, which devoured furniture and stripped the walls of the apartment, living room and kitchen," the Post reported.

The parents built a "fire-proof" new home at 404 North Nelson Street, according to an Arlington Fire Journal reader.

It's not far from their childrens' graves.

The reader, Sandy Mendyk, tells us:

"I had heard a story about the fire from a woman who lives at 404 North Nelson Street when talking to her about her stone house. She said the builders of the home had it constructed of stone and steel because they had lost two small children in a fire.

"She said the children were buried at Columbia Gardens Cemetery near the dead end of Nelson Street that used to extend into the cemetery. She added that when the parents lived on Nelson Street, they used to visit the graves of the children every day.

"I recently found the graves of the Lazo children at the location the present resident described. Richard Henry Lazo was born in 1927, his sister Peggy Anne Lazo in 1931."

On Christmas Day 1934, The Washington Post published a dispatch from the Associated Press in Richmond that holiday mishaps - auto wrecks, an explosion and fires - claimed 12 lives across Virginia, including the Lazo children.

A decade later, another tragedy - eerily familiar:

On Dec. 12, 1944, an exploding stove killed three children left alone in their frame home at 1520 South Vermont Street.
Julie Carter, 5, and her brothers Sidney, 3, and Garland, 2, were buried in a single casket, according to The Washington Post.