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.
Arlington County’s ambulance bus — typically used for mass casualty situations — was utilized this afternoon to transport a patient who reportedly weighed more than 600 pounds.
The ambulance bus and two additional ambulance crews were dispatched to the Cherrydale Health & Rehabilitation Center (3710 Lee Highway) to help take the man to the hospital around 3:15 p.m.
The man was suffering from an elevated temperature and a chronic infection, according to fire department radio traffic.
This week’s frigid temperatures could be deadly, even inside your home.
The Arlington County Fire Department warns that carbon monoxide incidents typically increase during cold weather as home heating units kick into overdrive. The department issued the following press release, with carbon monoxide safety tips.
As the frequency of Carbon Monoxide (CO) incidents increases during colder winter months, the Arlington County Fire Department reminds all residents to install CO alarms and practice safe heating practices. In 2012, Arlington experienced 47 carbon monoxide incidents and 56 in 2013. These incidents occurred in all types of homes, including single family homes, townhouses, garden apartments and high-rise occupancies.
The silent killer
Carbon monoxide is known as the “silent killer” because it is an invisible, odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness or death. At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. Eventually carbon monoxide poisoning will lead to unconsciousness home, elevated levels of CO can kill you before you are aware there is a problem. However, if CO alarms are installed properly, they will alert the occupants before symptoms even start. CO alarms are an inexpensive way to protect yourself and your family.
CO is produced when fuels, such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane, burn incompletely. While individual apartments may not have these types of appliances in their unit, CO can seep into their unit from another source in the building. Common causes of carbon monoxide in the home include gas furnaces, water heaters, gas stoves, fireplaces, wood stoves, space heaters, portable generators and automobiles idling in a closed or attached garage.
General carbon monoxide precautions:
- Install carbon monoxide alarms in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. For the best protection, interconnect all carbon monoxide alarms throughout the home. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
- If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, immediately move to fresh air and call 9-1-1.
- If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the alarm still sounds after the batteries are replaced, call 9-1-1.
- Do not leave the car engine running in the garage, fumes can quickly build-up and seep through door cracks into the home.
- Do not use a gas stove or oven to heat your home.
- Ensure all fuel-burning appliances are checked regularly by a trained and certified professional. This includes appliances such as furnaces, gas heaters, ovens, fireplaces etc.
- During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
- A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings.
- Only use gas or charcoal grills outside.
More information on how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, visit the fire department’s website.
A dryer fire early this morning has caused Cherrydale eateries Billy’s Cheesesteaks and Pasha Cafe to close indefinitely.
The fire was called in to dispatch at 2:18 a.m., according to Arlington County Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani, who said she couldn’t specify how long it took the firefighters to extinguish the blaze.
The fire originated from a dryer in the back of Billy’s Cheesesteaks (3907 Lee Highway), according to Marchegiani, and fire marshals estimate it did approximately $10,000 worth of damage to the restaurant. Pasha Cafe, which is just next door and has the same owner, suffered some smoke damage. The buildings were unoccupied and no one was injured in the fire.
A manager at Pasha told ARLnow.com that Pasha should reopen “very soon,” but admitted he didn’t know how long it would Billy’s Cheesesteaks to reopen. Billy’s had been cleared of most of the debris but soot still covers the walls and many surfaces.
ACFD Engine 108 encountered some unforeseen problems while responding to a water main break in the Tara-Leeway Heights neighborhood this morning.
The water main break was reported on the 1700 block of N. Harrison Street, a couple of blocks from Virginia Hospital Center. The road is closed and police are redirecting traffic, according to and Arlington Alert.
The fire truck was spotted about 50 feet from the water main break on 17th Street N., with its right front tire stuck in a freshly-formed, apparent sinkhole. No word yet on damage.
Photos courtesy Drew Stephens
Fire department personnel were dispatched to the school just after 1:00 p.m. for a report of smoke and an electrical smell. Students and staff were evacuated and spent time in the frigid outdoors while firefighters investigated.
No fire was found at the school, and a mechanical issue was suspected, according to fire department spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani. Students and staff were able to reenter an unaffected area of the school once it was determined that there was no fire.
(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) One person is in serious condition after a three-alarm apartment fire on Columbia Pike this morning.
The fire broke out just before 9:30 a.m. at 850 S. Greenbrier Street, a seven-story brick apartment building near Columbia Pike. The fire broke out in a second story apartment , then extended to the third floor, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Bill Shelton.
Several people were rescued by firefighters using ladders, while several others jumped from their second and third-floor apartments. One person was rescued and transported to Washington Hospital Center with life-threatening smoke inhalation injuries. Three others were transported to the hospital for non-fire-related medical conditions.
Residents of the apartment building are being sheltered in a nearby church and another apartment building, according to Shelton. All residents but those on the second floor and in two fire-damaged apartments are expected to be allowed back later tonight. They were originally expected to be allowed back around 4:00 but “plumbing issues” forced a delay.
Jonathan, a Twitter user contacted by ARLnow.com, said he and his family were in a third floor apartment and were among those who had to jump.
“I woke up to the fire alarm, didn’t think it was nothing then I heard an explosion and my people where telling us to get out,” he said via Twitter. “I opened the door to check and it was filled with smoke we had to jump out of the window.”
Jonathan said he, his mother, father, and brother all jumped out the window, taking their pet bird with them. For now they’re staying at a friend’s house.
Shelton said oxygen tanks were found in the second floor apartment where the fire started. Raime, another Twitter user, said the fire started in his mother’s apartment.
“My mom tried to plug her phone in the wall to charge it and it sparked a fire and she had oxygen tanks in the room and they exploded,” he said. So far fire officials have not been able to confirm his account.
Photos courtesy @itsjustmejona
A “small house fire” was called in at 12:30 p.m. today and units from the Fairfax County and Arlington County fire departments responded to the 1900 block of Westmoreland Street. The fire was extinguished “within minutes” according to Fairfax County Fire Department spokesman Capt. William Moreland.
One elderly woman, who was rescued from the home, was transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. When firefighters inspected the house, they found six deceased cats, and transported one cat and one dog to a nearby animal hospital.
Fire investigators are on the scene to assess damage to the house and to try to determine a cause for the fire.
Photo courtesy of @CAPT258
Pedestrian Struck on Route 1 — Added at 9:15 a.m. — The southbound lanes of Route 1 were closed this morning while police investigated a serious pedestrian accident. A pedestrian was reported struck by a car between 20th Street and 23rd Street overnight. [WJLA]
Civ Fed Considering Televising Meetings — The Arlington County Civic Federation, which has been trying to retain its relevance in the 21st century, is considering televising its meetings either on local cable or the internet. [Sun Gazette]
Firefighters Collecting Money for Kids’ Coats — Arlington County firefighters have launched a fundraising drive online intended to help buy winter coats for children in need in Arlington. [Operation Warm]