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."