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.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

SKYLINE - 1973

The rumble could be heard for miles.

On March 2, 1973, the center section of the 24-story Skyline Center in Bailey’s Crossroads, which borders Arlington, gave way.

The cascading concrete and steel killed 14 people and injured 34 others.

A Fairfax County police officer, Kirk Osgood, witnessed the collapse and radioed for help at 2:18 p.m., according to Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department archives.

Engine 6, Truck 6 and Rescue 6 responded from Falls Church along with Fairfax County units, according to John Franklin, a retired Arlington firefighter who was assigned to Rescue 6 that day.

"Back in 1973, Station 6 was also dispatched by Fairfax and was on the scene before Arlington was asked to send units," said Franklin, who retired in 2000 after 30 years on the job. 

Arlington County answered Fairfax County’s request for mutual aid with four ambulances – Rescues 1, 4, 5 and 10 – and Engine 9.
Truck 3 and the foam wagon were also dispatched, with the foam wagon carrying the Arlington County recruit class.
A canteen wagon operated by the ladies auxiliary of the Arlington firefighters’ union also provided assistance.

For Fairfax County, the recovery effort would continue for two weeks, when the last body was recovered.

Following is a wire service report on the incident:
Bailey's Crossroads, Va. (UPI) -- A huge unmanned crane plunged through 23 stories of a building under construction in a suburb of Washington Friday, slicing the structure in two as it crashed through floor after floor into the basement. At least six persons were killed and 34 injured.

An undetermined number of workmen were missing and feared buried under tons of concrete rubble.

Several survivors were plucked off the remains of the roof by a helicopter. Another was located buried under the rubble but still alive, and fed oxygen through a tube by a disaster team from a nearby hospital.

A scratching sound also was heard late Friday under an adjacent garage that fell in when the main building collapsed.

The crane toppled over on the top of the building and with a thundering roar "like an earthquake," plummeted through floor after floor as workmen below ran for their lives.

The building, sliced into two separate structures, remained hazardously up-right, held by two remaining end walls and remnants of the 23 floors. Officials said it appeared to be standing stably enough to conduct search operations.

Rescuers assembled a 100-foot boom crane late Friday night to clear away the debris.

Firemen from 14 suburban companies stood by protecting against the possibility of a flash fire or explosion from leaking propane gas tanks buried under the tons of concrete.

"This is going to take all night or even all day tomorrow," said a Fairfax County official. "It may be two or three days before we know for sure how many fatalities there were."

"Some of the men who are now missing might be home having a beer, some who we thought were missing have called in from home," he said.

Several survivors were plucked from the top by an Army helicopter after tossing crumbled notes to the ground pleading, "Please for God's sake, get us off this building."


In the Virginia state capital of Richmond on Dec. 26, 1811, fire destroyed the Richmond Theatre, killing 72 people including Governor George William Smith.

U.S. President James Madison and future president James Monroe were in the audience, according to Wikipedia.

Firefighters were unable to stop the inferno and the building collapsed.

The theater was located on the north side of Broad Street between what is now Twelfth and College streets. 

MCCRORY'S - 1929


Photo: Harris Ewing Collection glass negative

Photo: Ghosts of D.C.

In the 1800s and into the early 1900s, boiler explosions were a common occurrence.

Across the U.S., there were 499 boiler explosions reported in 1911, accounting for 222 deaths and 416 injuries, according to statistics from the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection & Insurance Co. as reported by the Journal of The Cleveland Engineering Society, May 1913.

In Washington, D.C.
, a boiler exploded at the McCrory's store at 416 Seventh Street, Northwest, killing six people and injuring many others on Nov. 21, 1929.

Passersby were among the victims.

"The explosion lifted part of the concrete sidewalk about 40 feet square in the air," according to an Associated Press dispatch in the Ellensburg Daily Record in Washington state.

"Firemen arriving immediately began digging beneath the ruins for bodies," the AP reported.

"Steam poured upon the cavity upon a score of firemen as they worked feverishly to lift the huge blocks of concrete which had fallen," AP said.

Seventh Street was the city's retailing district.

The incident went to four alarms.

Police detective Benjamin Keuhling, who was in the neighborhood when the boiler exploded, told the United Press:

I saw a man hurled 30 feet, and a woman shoot straight up in the air. It was a miracle that at least 20 persons were not killed."

Among the dead:
  • Elizabeth Dawson
  • Charles Jacobson  
  • Anna Mae Cockerell
  • Cockerell's her daughter Mary Ann, age 2 
  • Catherine Cullinaine, aunt of Cockerell

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Photo: Falls Church Volunteer Fire Dept.
House fire at North 13th and Stafford streets in the Ballston area of Arlington, Virginia, in January 1999. The plume of smoke was visible for miles. Firefighters were briefly trapped in the basement of the burning dwelling. A quint (probably Quint 104) has its aerial extended.