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]
If you find yourself in immediate physical danger while walking through a neighborhood, heading to a nearby fire station may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But the Arlington County Fire Department hopes to change that with its “Safe Haven lobbies.”
Although it is not yet widely known, a number of the county’s fire stations have been outfitted with special lobby features to protect a person who goes there for help.
The person in danger can go through the outside doors and into the fire station lobby, where the second set of doors leading to the rest of the fire station is always locked. When the person pushes the button on an emergency box inside the lobby, the outside doors automatically lock and the box calls 911. Someone at the county’s Emergency Communications Center (ECC) answers as if it were a typical 911 call placed from a phone. They speak to the person to determine the type of emergency and will then dispatch the appropriate emergency responders to the location.
There are cameras on the ceiling of the lobby that turn on when the emergency button is pushed. While waiting for police or fire fighters to respond, staff at the ECC will monitor the cameras to see what is happening during the call. The outside lobby doors will remain locked until ECC workers hang up the call when they determine the caller is safe.
The system can be used at any time, even if the station is empty while fire fighters are out on a call.
“The fire house is somewhere you can always come if you’re in danger. If you need help or have to call 911, you can come to any fire house,” said ACFD spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani. “It’s important to know that if you live close to one of these locations, one of the five that have it, that this exists and it’s another safety for you.”
All of the newer fire stations — 2, 3, 5, 6 and 9 — have a Safe Haven equipped lobby. Fire Station No. 9 was the first to be outfitted with the system when it was renovated in the late 1990s. The older stations were not built with lobbies, but the goal is to eventually install this type of a system in all of Arlington’s stations when they are upgraded or replaced.
So far nobody has used the system, but it’s unclear if that is because citizens haven’t had the need or if they’re not yet aware the Safe Haven lobbies exist.
Firefighters spent part of the morning dealing with a small fire at Portofino restaurant (526 23rd Street S.) in Crystal City.
According to Arlington County Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani, firefighters found a dryer fire in the basement of the building. They were able to extinguish those flames quickly with a water can fire extinguisher, as well as some flames that had spread to the area behind the dryer. Crews remained on the scene for a while to ventilate the smoke that had seeped throughout the building.
There were some people cooking inside the building when the fire broke out, but nobody was hurt.
Although a fire marshal was still on scene conducting an investigation as of 10:30 a.m., the fire is not expected to affect Portofino’s business and it will be open as usual.
Photo via Google Maps
The call for a fire in the rear of a home on the 300 block of N. Greenbrier Street came in at 6:38 p.m., according to Arlington County Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani. The first responding unit arrived on scene, in the Arlington Forest neighborhood, at 6:45.
Firefighters found heavy fire coming from the deck in the back of the home. The flames were spreading to the home’s kitchen, Marchegiani said.
A second alarm was called but in the end it was not needed — firefighters were able to make quick work of the flames, extinguishing the blaze before it had a chance to spread any further.
There was extensive damage to the rear deck, Marchegiani said, and minor damage to the kitchen, but the home was otherwise spared.
This is the second “save” for ACFD in a week. On Sunday Arlington firefighters quickly extinguished a basement fire on the 3600 block of 21st Avenue N., in the Maywood neighborhood, before it could spread to the upper floors of the house.
The incident happened around 11:00 Sunday night. Arlington Medic 109 was exiting a parking lot onto the 2400 block of S. Glebe Road, with lights and sirens blaring and a medical patient on board, when the driver observed a car approaching at a high rate of speed. The ambulance stopped but the driver of the approaching vehicle did not, and the car broadsided the ambulance, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Bill Shelton.
The driver of the car then fled on foot, Shelton said. He was later apprehended by police and transported to the hospital for treatment of injuries suffered in the crash.
The patient on Medic 109 was taken to the hospital by another ambulance, apparently unhurt by the collision, according to Shelton. The two paramedics were taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure, also uninjured.
“They were very lucky in that respect,” Shelton told ARLnow.com. “It was a very substantial impact.”
A police spokesman could not be reached to confirm which charges are being filed against the alleged hit-and-run driver. Until repairs can be made, Medic 109 will be replaced by a reserve medic unit from the fire department’s fleet.
Photo courtesy Robert Eversburg/ACFD
A call comes in for a seemingly typical vehicle accident on a seemingly typical morning in Arlington. But for the rattled caller, the situation is anything but typical. Enter Lynne Putnam, Emergency Communications Tech III. Putnam has 30 years of experience as a 911 dispatcher, 27 of those spent in Arlington County. She attempts to soothe the caller while transferring the person, because it turns out the accident did not occur in Arlington’s jurisdiction.
“Stay on the line, ma’am, I’m sending you to Park Police.”
Putnam remains on the line with the caller until she can hear the person speaking with a representative for the U.S. Park Police. As with this case, Putnam frequently must make sense out of a caller’s choppy phrases and gather all the facts she can. Often, callers panic and collecting the necessary information becomes a more daunting task than it may first appear.
“I think the part I like best is I’m able to help people in their time of need,” said Putnam. “I like being the calming voice on the other side helping you through your emergency.”
Adding to the difficulty of call taking is the ECC goal to answer each 911 call within 90 seconds. Although not easy to rapidly collect information and then move on to the next call, it’s the ECC employees’ speedy actions that help maintain Arlington County Fire Department’s four minute average response time.
“We’re really proud of that,” said Putnam.
Answering 911 calls is only part of the job for Putnam and her co-workers at Arlington’s Emergency Communications Center in the Courthouse neighborhood; they also train as police and fire dispatchers. Although it takes about 18 months for the average employee to become fully trained in all three disciplines, it allows for more flexibility and employees can help out wherever needed.
Dispatchers are the voices the public hears when listening to scanners. They deal with calls to the non-emergency police line as well as emergencies called in to 911. Based on the information entered into the system by the 911 call takers, dispatchers determine which response units should head to the scene and how many units should respond. They examine which units are closest and call them to the scene via police and fire radios, explain the emergency as best they can and sometimes give directions.
“The mechanics of the job look easy, answering phones and inputting information,” said Emergency Communications Tech III Sheree Rymenams. “But there’s a lot of judgment involved for each call.”
Dispatchers say occasionally their jobs can be “like that telephone game” in that the details or severity of the original call can end up being nothing like what officers actually find on the scene. With the long hours, multi-tasking and intense situations sometimes comes nervousness, despite having cue cards at each cubicle with prompts for what to ask in a wide variety of situations. After all, emergency responders’ and citizens’ lives are on the line.
“You can’t worry constantly. You just have to do what you’re trained to do, what you’re supposed to do,” said Rymenams. “It’s a team effort.”
(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) A Ferrari crashed and caught fire on the GW Parkway this morning, prompting an emergency response that then led to an accident involving a fire department vehicle.
The first wreck happened around 9:30 a.m., in the southbound lanes of the GW Parkway under I-66, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani.
The Ferrari lost control on the rain-slicked road and struck the bridge, coming to rest on the side of the parkway. The Ferrari then caught fire, quickly becoming fully engulfed before the flames were extinguished by firefighters. The driver was uninjured, according to Marchegiani.
Just past 10:30 a.m., a pickup truck rear-ended an Arlington County Fire Marshal’s truck that was stopped in the northbound lanes of the GW Parkway, adjacent to the first wreck. A third vehicle was also hit but no injuries were reported, Marchegiani said.
The dual wrecks shut down lanes and caused major backups for GW Parkway commuters. Two trucks are currently on scene to haul away the vehicles involved.
Video (above) courtesy David Johnson. Photos (below) courtesy @Chief288.
Terminal A Revamp Underway at DCA — A $37 million renovation project at Reagan National Airport’s Terminal A is proceeding swiftly. The project isn’t adding a significant amount of extra space to the historic terminal, but it will make the existing space seem brighter and more open. Most of the work is expected to be complete by the holiday travel season. [Washington Post]
Pupatella Makes National Pizza Rankings — Bluemont’s Pupatella Neapolitan Pizzeria (5104 Wilson Blvd) serves one of the top 40 slices of pizza in the country, according to new rankings. Pupatella’s capricciosa pizza was ranked No. 36 on the list, as judged by the Daily Meal website. [Daily Mail]
Students Receive Scholarships at NAACP Banquet — Through a partnership with the Arlington NAACP, a new scholarship fund awarded $2,500/year college scholarships to four high-performing local students over the weekend. The scholarship fund allows the NAACP to “invest in our youth,” said the head of the Arlington branch of the organization. [Sun Gazette]
Beer and Wine Walks Return to Crystal City — Crystal City’s 1K wine and beer walks will return next month. The walks — which allow participants to sample various wines and beers while walking through Crystal City’s underground shopping center — will take place on Nov. 16 and 17. [Crystal City]
County Board Adopts Public Safety Radio Resolution — The Arlington County Board adopted a resolution yesterday (Tuesday) that calls on builders to install technology that allows better police and fire department communications in new buildings. Modern construction materials have made it difficult for first responders to receive radio signals in newer buildings. The Board’s non-binding resolution calls on builders to install in-building wireless systems to better transmit public radio signals. [Arlington County]
Disclosure: Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser
Arlington Volunteer Fire Department, Company One held its annual memorial service and celebrated its 90th anniversary on Saturday afternoon.
Held at the fire station at 500 S. Glebe Road, the ceremony was also the unveiling of a park to the north of the station and new memorial statues honoring firefighters, both career and volunteer, who have died. Family members of deceased firefighters laid roses and the feet of the memorial during Saturday’s ceremony.
Fire Company One was originally located on S. Edgewood Street when it opened in 1923. The keynote speaker at the event was Judge Henry Hudson, of the Fourth Circuit Court in Richmond, who is a lifelong member of Company One.
Photos courtesy Marcy Genest
(Update at 11:25 a.m.) An office worker has been hurt from a fall behind 950 N. Glebe Road in Ballston.
The incident happened just before 10:00 a.m. The worker was walking to a meeting when he stepped on a steel grate, adjacent to the sidewalk, which collapsed. He fell about 15 feet into a ventilation shaft, landing on a concrete ledge. Scanner reports suggest he suffered head and rib injuries.
A technical rescue team from the Arlington County Fire Department used a Stokes basket to lift the man from the shaft. With dried blood visible on his face, he was loaded onto a stretcher and taken to the trauma center at Inova Fairfax Hospital around 11:00 a.m.
The man, a white male in his 50s, was conscious, alert and breathing, fire department spokesman Capt. Bill Shelton said. There’s no official word on the nature of his injuries.
In his experience, Shelton said, incidents like this one, in which a grate collapses under the feet of a pedestrian, are uncommon.
Two lanes of N. Glebe Road were blocked by the emergency response. A county building engineer has responded to the scene to inspect the grate.