Members of the Arlington County Fire Department blocked off the parking lot to the Arlington Historical Museum in Aurora Hills and climbed to the top of the Hume School on Tuesday morning. There was no emergency, the firefighters simply helped to fix the old school’s bell.
The bell functioned as a call to school children from 1891 until 1956. More recently, visitors to the museum could ring the bell. That is, until the rope broke when a visitor pulled it a little too enthusiastically.
“We encourage all visitors, particularly kids, to ring the bell when they’re visiting the museum. It’s just great to hear that sound and it’s been silent for months because the rope broke,” Arlington Historical Society President John Richardson said. “We think somebody was very eager and just broke it.”
Truck 105 from the Crystal City station used its 100 foot ladder to access the bell tower, which is nearly unreachable without special equipment. Richardson said he and an assistant previously had tried to access the bell to fix the rope, but it was too dangerous.
“It’s very difficult to get up to the bell tower safely,” said Richardson. “You can’t get up that sloping roof.”
It was going to be expensive to hire someone to bring out equipment to access the bell so instead, Richardson contacted ACFD Chief Jim Schwartz to see if the department could help out.
“We’re the only ones that have a ladder long enough to reach up there and put the rope back on for them,” said Capt. Chuck Kramaric of Station No. 5.
After one of the firefighters climbed into the tower to make repairs, the whole crew went inside the old schoolhouse to test out the new rope. They took turns ringing the bell, while Richardson expressed his thanks for their work.
“We love the ACFD,” Richardson said. “They’re really great.”
Fmr. Arlington Man Pleads Guilty to Murder — Lamont Deshawn Terry, a 39-year-old former Arlington resident, has pleaded guilty to the 1992 fatal shooting of a D.C. man at Hains Point. Terry had driven from Arlington to D.C. with plans to commit a robbery when he encountered victim Chet Hunter Matthews and his girlfriend in a parked car. [Washington Post]
Heritage Center in Courthouse? – An Arlington Heritage Center, hosting exhibits about Arlington’s history and cultural heritage, could eventually be built in Courthouse. Officials are looking at the redeveloped Courthouse Square area as a potential site for the long-sought center. A heritage center on Columbia Pike, which had been discussed previously, is apparently no longer being considered. [InsideNova]
Crystal City McDonald’s Lease Sells for Millions — A ground lease for the Crystal City McDonald’s, at 2620 Jefferson Davis Highway, has been sold for $7.35 million, a possible record. The McDonald’s, which pays around $300,000 per year to lease the land, is expected to remain there through 2026. [Washington Business Journal]
ACFD’s 9/11 Response — Last Thursday, Arlington County fire chief James Schwartz recounted the department’s response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. Arlington was uniquely prepared for the unfathomable attack, thanks to its location and response to other major disasters like the 1982 Air Florida crash, Schwartz said. He also lauded Arlington’s role in the evidence gathering effort, which included finding the terrorists’ drivers’ licenses. [Falls Church News-Press]
WJLA Takes Right Turn Under New Ownership — Rosslyn-based WJLA (ABC 7) has taken a rightward turn following its purchase by Sinclair Broadcast Group. The station now airs conservative commentary, critical of President Obama and “government waste,” during its newscasts. It has also fired much of its longtime management team. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Highmuckmuck
A dryer caught fire early this evening in a townhouse on the 1100 block of N. Taylor Street in Ballston, igniting the laundry room in the basement of a home.
The Arlington County Fire Department arrived on the narrow street at 5:00 p.m., according to ACFD Battalion Chief Dan Fitch. The home’s occupant found the fire, left the building and called 9-1-1, Fitch said No one else was inside and no injuries were reported.
The fire was knocked down at 5:08 p.m., before it could spread to other rooms or to any neighboring units, Fitch said. The street smelled slightly of smoke in the minutes following the small blaze, but no trace of fire damage could be seen from the exterior of the house.
State Dept. Office Consolidation — The GSA is working with the State Department on a plan for consolidating its two offices in Rosslyn into one office in either Rosslyn, Ballston, Pentagon City or Crystal City. [Washington Business Journal]
Ohio Woman Charged in Arlington Boy’s Death — A 62-year-old woman has been charged in the death of 8-year-old Ashlawn Elementary student Eli Sachar. Police in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, have charged Christine Gregory with aggravated vehicular homicide, reckless operation and failure to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk, after she struck Eli and his family with her car as they were crossing a street while visiting the town. [WKYC]
ACFD Training for Active Shooter at the Pentagon – The Arlington County Fire Department is training with the Pentagon Force Protection Agency on active shooter scenarios at the Pentagon. During an actual active shooter situation, under newly-updated plans, armed Pentagon Force Protection officers would escort unarmed Arlington medics into the area where the shooting was happening so they can begin medically treating the victims. [Washington Times]
Library Sends Erroneous Overdue Emails — Arlington Public Library sent erroneous emails yesterday incorrectly stating that patrons had overdue books. “We apologize for the inconvenience, and are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible,” the library said on its website. “If you have any questions about what materials are actually checked out to you, you can check by logging in to your account online or at any Library location.” [Arlington Public Library]
Metro: Eight-Car Trains More Effective Than I-66 Widening — Metro says adding all-eight-car trains to the Orange Line is the capacity equivalent of widening I-66 by two lanes. “Plus, it’d likely be cheaper and faster for commuters, too,” Metro planners say. [PlanItMetro]
Fireball Seen Across Mid-Atlantic — Arlington residents and those across the mid-Atlantic saw a fireball streak across the sky last night around 10:15 p.m. Wrote one reader to ARLnow.com: “Was out on my back porch [in Lyon Park] looking west and at exactly 10:15 p.m. I saw a crazy, bright shooting star fall from North Arlington over Columbia Pike and towards the ground near Shirlington. Totally time from sighting to out of sight behind the trees was 4 seconds tops.” [Capital Weather Gang]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
A car ran off the road and into the woods on westbound I-66 at the Route 110 ramp, near Rosslyn.
The wreck happened around 12:30 p.m. Rescuers responded for a report of an occupant trapped in the vehicle, but that person was apparently able to get out before firefighters arrived on scene.
Two people were reportedly transported to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.
(Updated at 2:15 p.m.) A house fire just before 2:00 a.m. Tuesday did $150,000 of damage and sent two firefighters to the hospital, but the home’s occupants were unharmed.
At 1:51 a.m., Arlington County Fire Department received a call for a house fire on the 1700 block of S. Oakland Street, just two blocks away from Fire Station 9 on S. Walter Reed Drive, according to ACFD spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani. The occupants, two adults and an infant, had gotten out of their Douglas Park house safely after being woken up by a fire alarm.
The fire was “inside the walls” on the second story of the house, Marchegiani said, making it difficult for firefighters to douse the flames. The fire spread across the second floor and into the attic before firefighters were able to contain and extinguish it.
“It took almost an hour to knock down the fire because they had to basically open the walls to find the fire,” Marchegiani said, adding that the firefighters “were experiencing heavy heat.”
Two firefighters were transported to the hospital via ambulance, one suffering from smoke inhalation and another from “minor trauma.” Marchegiani said both are in good condition as of late this morning.
Marchegiani emphasized that the fire could have turned tragic if it weren’t for the house’s alarms. The Fire Marshal is conducting an investigation into the cause of the fire.
“We credit the fact that there were no injuries to the occupants to the working smoke alarms,” Marchegiani said. “That’s really the message we’re trying to push.”
Arlington Fire Chief Jim Schwartz on Tuesday presented the County Board with recommendations from the county’s latest fire station location study, and the results are not without controversy.
A consultant has recommended that Arlington move Fire Station 8 further north, defying neighborhood protestations; close the “neighborhood treasure” Fire Station 7; and build a new fire station on the eastern portion of Columbia Pike.
Tuesday was the first time the Board had received a detailed public rundown of results in the TriData report from December 2012. The report assessed Arlington’s need for emergency services and how needs have changed. The last assessment of Arlington’s fire response needs had been nearly 13 years prior.
“Communities on a regular basis need to assess where their fire stations are,” said Schwartz. “Communities change a great deal, this one certainly has in the last couple of decades.”
Schwartz explained that 60 percent of Arlington County Fire Department’s activity comes from emergency medical calls, 30 percent from fire or hazmat calls and 10 percent are non-emergency public service calls, such as stuck elevators. The sections of Arlington County producing the most calls consistently coincide with the most densely populated areas. Fire Station No. 5, near Crystal City, is currently the busiest in Arlington.
ACFD aims to respond to all fire calls within four minutes of being dispatched, and respond to medical calls within eight minutes. However, those goals are not being met in the northern portion of the county, Schwartz noted. He said there is no fire station located in the northernmost part of the county, which causes response times there to be longer than in areas with better station coverage.
“We have not been physically located where we can get to the northernmost portion of the county in four minutes. So that has been a long term goal of the department, to move a facility into an area that physically enables us to get there as quickly as possible,” said Schwartz.
The need to offer better coverage in the northern part of the county prompted a recommendation in the TriData report to move Station No. 8 from its position on Lee Highway in the Hall’s Hill/Highview neighborhood to county-owned land at Old Dominion Drive and 26th Street N., near Marymount University.
That proposal rankled members of the Old Dominion Civic Association, who say the county did not reach out and allow residents to give feedback. Several residents of that neighborhood believe the land on which the new station would be built should instead be preserved as park space.
“I will acknowledge the report recommended as better sites from a response perspective, Williamsburg Blvd at Glebe Road, and Rock Spring Road at Glebe Road. Both areas where there is a lot of private property that I do not envision us taking. And so we said, what’s the next best alternative, and they focused back on the recommendation of 26th and Old Dominion,” said Schwartz.
Several County Board members echoed the community concern over a lack of explanation for building a fire station at the proposed site.
“We do need more information,” said Board member Walter Tejada. “I guess the concern people feel, the reason is they have been surprised or blindsided by it. I’m hoping those questions will be answered so we can pass them on to our residents who want to know how did this come about.”
The plan, to relocate Fire Station 8 from Lee Highway to a county-owned parcel of land on Old Dominion Drive near Marymount University, was included in Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommended Capital Improvement Plan. The plan (see pp. C-86 and C-88) also calls for the county’s Emergency Operations Center to be relocated from Courthouse to the new fire station site, and for an adjacent salt and mulch storage yard to be replaced and modernized.
The existing Emergency Operation Center is located in a building that’s set to be torn down to make way for the county’s Courthouse Square project and the salt storage yard, which serves snow removal crews in North Arlington, is past its useful life, according to the CIP. The fire station is set to be relocated from 4845 Lee Highway following a 2013 study that suggested the Old Dominion location would improve fire department response times in the area.
“When Arlington County published their Proposed FY 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan on May 13th, the residents of the Old Dominion and Donaldson Run Civic Associations, did not have a clue as to the green space ‘hijacking’ the County had in store for their residential neighborhoods,” an Old Dominion Civic Association representative told ARLnow.com via email.
A flyer is being sent to local residents, encouraging them to speak out in opposition to the plan.
“STOP THE DESTRUCTION OF OUR GREEN SPACE!” the flyer reads. “The proposed CIP calls for leveling of all the county-owned green space from 25th Street through the corner of 26th Street and Old Dominion… OPPOSE THE APPROVAL OF THE 25th/26th STREET OFFICE PARK AND FIRE STATION AND MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD!”
Richard Lolich, president of the Old Dominion Citizens Association, said that there are lots of families with young children in the neighborhood.
“Because of this there is a real need for good park space for these children and families,” he said. “The County’s proposed location for the relocated fire station is on property that is ideal for a park in the neighborhood — the only neighborhood in Arlington currently without a dedicated park. We strongly feel that the County should address this issue before destroying green space in the middle of our neighborhood.”
The proposed site is within 2 miles of Potomac Overlook Regional Park and 1 mile of Greenbrier Park.
This morning, the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association (the IAFF Local 2800) issued a long, detailed statement on the need to staff Tower 104, which serves the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, and Rescue 109, which serves Pentagon City and Columbia Pike, with four firefighters, as opposed to their current three-person staffs.
“Tower 104 and Rescue 109, with an ever-rising response area population, massive increase in high-rise square footage, terrorism threat, and other changing factors, require adequate staffing to safely and effectively carry out our assignments,” the Local 2800 writes. “The current staffing of three firefighters is woefully and dangerously inadequate.”
Rescue 109 was one of the first responders to the house fire in Nauck on March 15 that claimed two lives, and the firefighter who was injured fighting the blaze was on the three-person truck. He has not yet returned to duty, according to the Local 2800.
Tower 104 is a large fire truck with a ladder and “bucket” that puts firefighters into position, while Rescue 109 is a truck with no ladder that transports firefighters to emergency scenes, but comes equipped with tools for responding to car accidents and building collapses, according to Arlington County Fire Chief James Schwartz. Both trucks are staffed with firefighter/EMTs.
Schwartz said he has been advocating for four-person units for years, but he said budget constraints have prevented Tower 104 and Rescue 109 from joining the rest of the county’s fleet with four-person staffs.
“It’s been a longstanding position of mine and it has been advocated by the department for some time,” Schwartz told ARLnow.com this afternoon. “Obviously, the Board has to make policy decisions. I think they, too, would like to get to four-person staffing in each of the units. Sometimes the budget guidance is limiting in that regard.”
Schwartz said four-person staffing is not as simple as just hiring two more firefighters. Each additional firefighter on a truck is the equivalent of four full-time positions, to account for three eight-hour shifts a day and covering for vacation and sick leave.
“In order to achieve the safe staffing levels that we’re after, it would require us to hire eight new positions,” he said. “That’s not an insignificant budget issue. It’s doable, and I think the Board is supportive of this effort.”
Schwartz said years ago, only about half of Arlington’s fire trucks were manned by four-person crews, but the last time the county added staff to bring fire trucks up to four-person teams was in 2004.
Four-person trucks are not just the ideal position for the union, Schwartz said, but it’s also the national standard as dictated by the National Fire Protection Association and several other advocacy groups. Despite the fact that Tower 104 and Rescue 109 are assigned to some of the county’s most densely populated areas, the decision to leave specifically those two units undermanned was done after careful risk analysis.
“Almost every unit in the department is quite busy and has a level of responsibility that is not greater or lesser than any other unit in the system,” he said. “We have 14 suppression units in service every day. Twelve have four-person staffing, and those were selected based on judgments we make that have a lot to do with call activity, the kind of calls that units run. I have to make judgments based on the resources I’ve been allocated.”
Schwartz said the County Board gave County Manager Barbara Donnellan direction to “review all public safety staffing and to make a recommendation for FY 2016,” at a budget meeting last month. To the Local 2800, FY 2016 is already too late.
“It has been shown that increased staffing reduces firefighter injuries, thus reducing the amount of money paid by Arlington taxpayers to care for and backfill with overtime employees,” the union writes. “Tower 104 and Rescue109 are limited in being able to safely, quickly, and effectively perform… critical functions while understaffed with three firefighters… This is dangerous and unacceptable.”
(Updated at 3:05 p.m.) A worker is fighting for his life after his head was crushed by a trailer hitch in the Arna Valley View neighborhood, between Pentagon City and Shirlington.
The accident happened around 1:15 p.m, outside an apartment complex in the area of 26th and S. Troy Streets. Initial reports indicate that an older man was working under a white van with a trailer attached, trying to fix a tire, when something happened to cause the trailer hitch to come down on the man’s head, crushing it.
An Arlington County Fire Department technical rescue team worked for 30-45 minutes to safely lift up the van and free the victim, who’s said to be alive but in critical condition with a grievous head injury. He was transported via ambulance to George Washington University Hospital.
The victim’s son, who was working with his dad at the time of the accident, helped to flag down emergency responders. Unconfirmed reports suggest the men work for a pool services company.
Arlington’s emergency responders were recognized for their acts of bravery and public service yesterday during the annual Valor Awards.
The Lifesaving Awards for the Office of Emergency Management and the Arlington County Fire Department were given to dispatchers and firefighters who responded to a kitchen fire in the Dominion Hills neighborhood on April 1 last year.
Two emergency communications technicians, Rachel Moreno and Heather Horan, were honored for their work dealing with the caller, the woman who was rescued from the scene of the fire. Moreno, who wasn’t a fully trained ECT at the time, and Horan, who was training her, took the woman’s call, dispatched a fire response in 50 seconds, told the victim to get to a window and punch through the screen so she could lean out to get air.
“ECT I Moreno was not fully qualified as a call taker but she showed tremendous poise,” OEM Director Jack Brown wrote of the dispatchers. “Her ability to stay calm and maintain control of the call was outstanding and showed experience beyond her years. Together, ECT I Moreno and ECT III Horan were able to obtain critical information and provide life-saving guidance that kept this incident from ending in tragedy.”
The victim eventually fell unconscious, but Moreno and Horan were able to give firefighters the victim’s exact location on the second story of the house. Soon after the victim fell unconscious, firefighters Nicolas Calderone and Jamie Jill entered the house, located the victim, carried her outside and extinguished the fire.
When Calderone and Jill set the victim down, firefighter Joseph Marr noticed she didn’t have a pulse and conducted a minute of CPR. When her pulse returned but her consciousness didn’t, Marr had to carry the victim up the street, since it was too narrow and there were too many firetrucks for the ambulance to get through. The victim made a full recovery.
“Often, this is the only public recognition these officers receive,” Chamber of Comerce President Rich Doud said. The chamber presented the awards. “It is unique to hear the stories of their heroic acts and to meet the officers involved. We are fortunate that they work in Arlington and perform so selflessly in the service of our businesses and citizens.”
Four Arlington police officers and one sheriff’s deputy were honored with lifesaving awards for preventing suicide attempts in three separate incidents.
Officers Stephanie Rodriguez and Kenneth Kernicky were honored after saving a man trying to hang himself from a tree in Douglas Park. Rodriguez caught the man while Kernicky cut the noose from the tree. Days later, according to the Sheriff’s Office, the man thanked the officers for saving his life. Deputy Andrew Woodrow found himself in a similar situation when he rescued an inmate at the Arlington County Jail tried to hang herself with a shoelace from her cell bed.
ACPD First Sgt. Latasha Chamberlain and Det. Paula Brockenborough were given the award after they prevented a woman from jumping off her apartment balcony after she learned of the death of her husband. Through background investigation on the way to the hospital, they discovered the woman was suffering from a mental illness.
Two police lieutenants, two firefighters and a sergeant in the Sheriff’s Office were given Meritorious Service awards, the valor awards’ equivalent of a lifetime achievement award. Police Auxiliary Lt. Heather Hurlock was given the award after volunteering for 1,724 hours in Arlington in 2013 and, since 1997, she has volunteered more than 30,000 hours.
Other recipients of the Meritorious Service Awards were: Lt. Mark Belanger, Sgt. Kevin Pope, Firefighter/EMT Clare Burley and Fire/EMS Capt. Brandon Jones.
Arlington County showed off its new $4.9 million fire training academy Tuesday.
County Board member Libby Garvey and members of the media got a tour of the facility, which is located at the county property yard (2800 S. Taylor Street) near Shirlington. The new fire training ground includes a seven-story tower, a sprinkler room and smoke generator, realistic stair and floor configurations, rappelling and rope rescue gear, and a below-ground storm drain system for technical rescue training.
The tower, in particular, is a new addition that allows firefighters to train in environments that are more reflective of the kind of apartment buildings now being built in Arlington.
“The multi-level building offers a variety of structural designs to simulate commercial, residential, basement, mid-rise and high-rise operations,” the county said in a press release. “Many of Arlington’s new buildings are high-rises, which require specialized fire-fighting training. Now, with the new facility, ACFD will be able to engage in more realistic training scenarios specifically tailored to the County’s needs.”
“Firefighters must continually adapt and learn new techniques to stay safe and keep up with changes in building construction and materials that are causing fires to burn hotter and spread faster than in the past,” the press release continued. “The in-county facility also provides savings in time, money and emissions previously spent sending fire fighters and recruits to other jurisdictions for critical training.”
In addition to fire and rescue training, the facility will be used by the fire department’s bomb squad, HazMat team and by the police department for certain training scenarios.
“The safety of our community is our highest priority,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a statement. “The new tactical facility provides our first responders with the most up-to-date training possible to help keep our fire fighters and community safe.”
Construction of the facility began in November 2012 and wrapped up in October 2013. A public open house will be held at the new fire training academy from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday (April 5).
False Alarm at Arlington National Cemetery — The Arlington County Fire Department responded to Arlington National Cemetery yesterday afternoon for a fire alarm. Once on scene, firefighters determined that the alarm was set off by the tomb guards steam pressing their uniforms. [Twitter]
Arlington Real Estate Market Profiled — CNBC’s “Power Lunch” program profiled the real estate market in Arlington last week. The program took a look at three properties in the county, from a $364,900 condo in Ballston to a $1,275,000 luxury townhouse in Rosslyn. [CNBC]
Arlington Dems Have Plenty of Beads — Arlington Democrats are trying to figure out what to do with more than 200 pounds of Mardi Gras beads. The party purchased the beads for the annual Clarendon Mardi Gras parade, which was rescheduled and then canceled due to snow this year. [InsideNoVa]
Doorways Fundraiser Planned — Rocklands Barbeque (3471 Washington Blvd) will open its patio for the season on Thursday, April 17, with its annual “Shed Your Coat” fundraiser. The event, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., will benefit Doorways for Women and Families. [Doorways]
Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber
(Updated at 4:55 p.m.) A construction worker has suffered serious injuries from a four-story fall off a roof in the Buckingham neighborhood.
The incident happened just before 4:00 p.m. on the 400 block of N. George Mason Drive. According to initial reports, the man fell from the roof of an under-construction, four-story condominium building onto a concrete surface below. The construction is for new townhouses in the Ballston Row development.
The victim was at least initially conscious and talking to those who came to his aid, but was bleeding from the head, according to scanner traffic. His injuries are described as life-threatening. He’s being transported via ambulance to the trauma center at George Washington University Hospital.
State occupational safety inspectors are being requested to investigate the incident.
(Updated at 7:05 p.m.)Two people were killed in a two-alarm blaze that engulfed a house on the 1900 block of S. Langley Street this afternoon.
The Arlington County Fire Department confirmed on Twitter that two occupants of the Nauck two-story house who had been unaccounted for more than an hour after the fire was reported were found dead. The investigation into the cause of the fire is still ongoing.
According to fire officials, the Arlington County Fire Department received multiple calls for a fire at approximately 3:39 p.m. Firefighters responded to the scene three minutes later to heavy fire and set up high-caliber streams to begin knocking the fire down. Some residents were outside the house and reported that there were occupants stuck inside when the firefighters arrived.
“Units made an aggressive push to search for occupants upon arriving on scene,” Deputy Fire Marshall Brian McGraw told ARLnow.com. “It took probably a good 12 to 15 minutes to knock the fire down just because of the size of the fire.”
“One firefighter was transported to MedStar Hospital with minor burn injuries on his hand, McGraw said. The fire is still under investigation and, as of 4:50 p.m., firefighters were still working through the house putting out “hot spots.” Firefighters from Alexandria and Fairfax County assisted ACFD with the emergency response.