The Arlington County Fire Marshal’s office is investigating a grass fire that ignited in front of an elementary school Monday afternoon.
The fire was reported around 1:30 p.m. and scorched a 20 by 40 foot area in front of Drew Model School (3500 23rd Street S.) in the Nauck neighborhood, according to fire department spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani. Witnesses told authorities that the fire was sparked by individuals who were setting off fireworks, though no fireworks were found by investigators.
“The fire is still under investigation,” Marchegiani said. The blaze caused “minimal damage.”
The fire broke out on a terrace and did not damage the interior of the cultural center. The cause is under investigation.
“The fire was quickly extinguished and contained to the terrace area,” said Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Gregg Karl. “There was damage to a piece of construction equipment and the terrace. The fire is under investigation by the Fire Marshal.”
Said Artisphere spokesman Jim Byers: “Artisphere is open as usual, as the fire was not inside the venue itself.”
Additional details were not immediately available.
The new public plaza at the Penrose Square development along Columbia Pike is still expected to open this fall, despite a recent setback.
The contractor working on the $2 million project found and accidentally ruptured an oil tank earlier this month during excavation work, we’re told. The rupture contaminated part of the site, but the county and contractors worked quickly to remedy the situation.
According to Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish:
The tank’s presence was previously unknown by the County. [Arlington] County’s construction manager immediately stopped contractor from working and notified our 3rd party consultant. Samples were taken and the fire marshal and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ) were notified. VADEQ directed County to have the tanks removed by a licensed contractor in the presence of the fire marshal. Samples were also taken to determine the extent of the contamination. Remediation steps have been approved by VADEQ.
Kalish said the plaza is still on track to open this fall.
“Construction is scheduled to be completed and the project opened in fall 2012,” she told ARLnow.com. “This issue will cause some delay, but is still expected to be completed and open in fall 2012.”
The plaza will consist of “a tree-covered, upper terrace with movable tables and chairs; an inner plaza with a water feature; a unique two-piece sculpture called ‘Echo’; an inscription of the historic significance of the site, and a grass mound area shaded with trees for informal seating,” according to the county.
Capt. Gregg Karl says the first step to fireworks safety is to make sure you’re using fireworks that are legal in Arlington County. Any fireworks purchased from an authorized fireworks stand in the county should comply with county regulations, Karl said. Those regulations specify that the fireworks emit a flame or spark less than 12 feet in the air.
Any fireworks that are “projectiles, explode, emit flames or sparks to a distance greater than twelve (12) feet are prohibited by Arlington County,” according to the county’s fireworks safety web page. The fire department also has a 42 page long list of fireworks approved for use in Arlington.
To prevent your fireworks from lighting anything on fire, Karl recommends placing them away from structures and watering down any nearby grass or brush.
“If you’re going to do any [legal fireworks], make sure you’re away from buildings and combustibles,” he said. “If you’re on grass, make sure you wet the ground around it. Please use extreme caution due to the dry conditions.”
Karl noted that fireworks should not be lit on county streets or sidewalks.
Other personal fireworks safety tips from the county include:
- Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks. Sparklers, considered by many the ideal “safe” firework for the young, burn at very high temperatures and can easily ignite clothing. Children cannot understand the danger involved and cannot act appropriately in case of emergency.
- Read and follow all warnings and instructions.
- Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks. Never shoot a firework at or near another person.
- Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves, and flammable materials.
- Never try to re-light fireworks that have not fully functioned. Douse and soak them with water and throw them away.
- Keep a bucket of water handy in case of a malfunction or fire.
- Never ignite fireworks in a container, especially a glass or metal container.
- Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas.
- Store fireworks in a dry, cool place. Check instructions for special storage directions.
- Observe local laws.
- Never have any portion of your body directly over a firework while lighting.
- Don’t experiment with homemade fireworks.
Arlington fire marshals will be patrolling the county and responding to resident complaints about fireworks tomorrow, Karl said. Any illegal fireworks will be confiscated and a warning will be issued. Repeat offenders may be issued a summons to appear in court.
Police will also be on the lookout for illegal fireworks, but will be more focused on traffic control efforts connected to the fireworks display on the National Mall. The fireworks are scheduled to run between 9:10 and 9:30 p.m. Viewing areas in and around Arlington include the Iwo Jima memorial, the Air Force Memorial, Gravelly Point, Rosslyn Gateway Park and Long Bridge Park.
“Our Special Operations Section is going to be out there directing and monitoring all traffic,” said Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
County Urges Residents to Buy CO Alarms — Arlington County Chief Fire Marshal Daniel Fitch is urging residents to buy, install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms. The recommendation, in the form of a press release, came one day after five people died from carbon monoxide poisoning in Oxon Hill, Md. [Arlington County]
Route 1 Transit Corridor Tension – Arlington and Alexandria are at odds over the proposed transit corridor along Route 1, reports Michael Lee Pope. Arlington has, for some reason, backed off a promise to kick in $2.4 million for an environmental analysis for the project, according to Pope. [Arlington Connection]
United Exempts Foreign Service from New Pet Fees – Rep. Jim Moran is applauding a decision by United Airlines to exempt the cost of transporting pets overseas for the country’s more than 5,000 Foreign Service workers. Last month United announced new charges to transporting pets, but at the time exempted only military personnel. “The policy change could have added thousands of dollars in moving costs to Foreign Service personnel,” Moran’s office said in a press release.
No Drones Over Arlington — Despite a report that the Arlington County Police Department has been cleared by the FAA to operate drone aircraft, the department says they’re drone-free. “The Arlington Police Department cleared is in Arlington, TX,” said department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “ACPD has no plans [for] ever using drones.”
A total of 27 decorative flags were burned overnight on a quiet couple of blocks between Quantico Street and Sycamore Street, near Bishop O’Connell High School and Tuckahoe Elementary, according to fire department spokesman Lt. Gregg Karl. Neighbors say the plastic flags were recently placed in yards by the Boy Scouts, an annual Flag Day tradition.
Investigators believe whoever burned the flags did so just before 5:30 a.m. The fires caused the plastic flags to melt onto plants, yards and walkways. No word on a motive, but one neighbor on 27th Street theorized that the vandal or vandals were trying to send a message.
“There are some people who object to the flags for political reasons,” she said. “There are ways to protest if you don’t believe in something, but destructive protests like this do not accomplish goals. It does not accomplish anything.”
The resident acknowledged, however, that the flag burnings could also be a random act of “pure vandalism,” adding that said she could not remember anything like this happening in the 11 years she has lived in the neighborhood.
“It’s dangerous,” she said. “It could have caused a real fire.”
Anyone with information about the burnings is asked to call Deputy Fire Marshal Paul Frank at 703-228-4644. More photos, after the jump.
Hat tip to Colleen Creighton
First arriving firefighters found heavy smoke and flames at the front and back of the house on the 5100 block of N. Carlin Springs, said Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Lt. Gregg Karl. One victim had managed to escape the blaze, but another was still trapped inside on the second floor.
“[Firefighters] made an aggressive interior attack and search,” Karl said. “They located the victim and removed the victim via ground ladder from a second floor window.”
The two victims were transported to Virginia Hospital Center. The woman who had been rescued was then flown to Baltimore Shock Trauma for treatment of smoke inhalation, Karl said.
The flames broke out around 1:45 a.m. Northbound and southbound Carlin Springs Road was closed near the scene for much of the morning, as the Fire Marshal’s office investigated the cause of the blaze.
About a dozen fire marshal’s office personnel have spread out across the area to make sure St. Patrick’s Day crowds don’t get out of hand.
So far we haven’t heard of any problems.
Arlington County is warning Rosslyn workers and residents to expect some blasting as a result of work on a new entrance to the Rosslyn Metro station.
According to an email from the county, contractor Clark Construction has excavated to a depth of 20 feet but is about to hit bedrock. Once it does, Clark will need to start blasting to reach the ultimate depth of 100 feet. The blasting is expected to start “in the near future.”
County officials say they’re doing everything they can to keep the noise down, including putting a concrete cap on the “blast shaft” and using “blast mats.”
“Blasting is often a standard practice for excavation and due to the small footprint of the work site, the contractor anticipates minimal noise and vibration,” the county said. “Close coordination has occurred with all partners on the construction project, including the Arlington County Fire Marshall, Police Department, Metro, and others.”
The actual time of day when blasting will occur and possible street closures are currently being worked out with the Fire Marshal’s office.
Firefighters initially responded to the Falls Church shopping center this morning for an activated fire alarm. They quickly discovered that the alarm was set off by fireworks being ignited inside the building.
Arlington fire marshals responded and, after determining the problem was more widespread than just one store, Falls Church Police and additional Arlington units were called in. Fire marshals are now conducting a sweep of the shopping center and confiscating illegal fireworks.
They’ve found enough fireworks so far to fill a 44 gallon trash can and a 18×12 box, according to fire department spokesman Lt. Gregg Karl, who noted that police will be stepping up their fireworks enforcement.
“Anybody who is caught lighting fireworks inside the building will be issued summons or arrested,” he said.
Photo courtesy Arlington Fire Department
The Arlington County Fire Marshal’s office is calling for backup at the Eden Center in Fall Church, which is apparently going in a bit overboard in celebrating the Chinese New Year.
“They’re shooting fireworks all around this area,” a fire official radioed to dispatchers a few minutes ago, while requesting that Fall Church Police respond to the shopping center.
Arlington firefighters initially responded to the center for an activated fire alarm. They quickly determined that the fire alarm was set off by fireworks and called in the fire marshal.
Today marks the start of the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac. The Year of the Rabbit is supposed to be quiet and peaceful, but given the ruckus at Eden Center that doesn’t seem to be the case so far.
Eden Center, which is primarily a Vietnamese shopping center, is actually celebrating the Year of the Cat, as the above poster illustrates. The Chinese character for rabbit translates to cat in Vietnamese, according to Wikipedia.
Arlington provides fire department services to Falls Church under contract.
It was a horrific scene on South James Street in Falls Church Saturday afternoon.
On a quiet residential street, two blocks away from the Broadale Village Shopping Center, a 54-year-old woman apparently doused herself with a flammable substance and lit herself on fire, according to Arlington fire department spokesperson Lt. Ed Hughes.
Falls Church police and Arlington firefighters and paramedics responded to the scene.
“Upon arrival, officers found a female, in her 50s, leaning against the outside wall of a residence, underneath a spigot with water running over her body,” Falls Church Police said in a statement today. “She had second and third degree burns over 70% of her body.”
The woman, whose identity has not been released, was rushed to nearby Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, where a helicopter was waiting to airlift her to the Washington Hospital Center burn unit. She succumbed to her injuries early Sunday morning, Falls Church Police said.
The Falls Church Police Department and the Arlington County Fire Marshal are investigating the incident as a possible suicide, according to Arlington Chief Fire Marshal Benjamin Barksdale.