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Santa Coming to Cherrydale Fire Station

by Michael Doyle December 16, 2010 at 6:47 am 2,943 11 Comments

Santa Claus is coming to Arlington County’s historic Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Station on Sunday, Dec. 19, bringing with him gift bags for children and good cheer for all. Santa’s appearance between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. marks the 80th time he has arrived courtesy of the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department, the oldest organization of its kind in Arlington County.

Santa’s appearance will be particularly meaningful this year, as the Arlington County Fire Department’s Engine Co. 3 is preparing to depart for new Lee Highway quarters in 2011. The Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Station at 3900 Lee Highway will remain as a community resource; it is listed on both the state and national historic landmark registries.

The Cherrydale station’s holiday celebration has changed over the years, even as it has grown in popularity. Up until 1960, Santa brought refurbished toys to give away. Following several years of a gift exchange, the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department in 1964began buying gifts for distribution. Typically, several hundred children show up for the afternoon festivities.

Organized in 1898, the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department includes members who are cross-trained as both firefighters and emergency medical technicians. The volunteer department owns and operates Light and Air 103, which provides emergency lighting, salvage and other services. The volunteers also own a general services vehicle called Utility 103.

  • G::TheNativeArlingtonian

    The volunteers, although well meaning in some cases, really provide no additional needed services that are not covered by the county’s paid department. The request for donations the Cherrydale Volunteers regularly send out is a farce. The full time paid staff is fully funded, has the necessary equipment, and is a well trained group. More times than not, today’s volunteers are more in the way as they polish their badges than they are any good. Wasn’t always the case, but has been for at least 20 years. Let them stick to providing community social events like the nice Santa Claus visit.

    • mehoo

      Santa’s got a lump of coal for you.

      • G::TheNativeArlingtonian

        Ooh, coal! I can start a fire… hey, wait a minute…

  • NorthAdams

    G: nice buzz kill for Thursday morning. You and the others who pick on the Volunteers are a great positive influence here on this blog.

    The question is, since Santa just brought Cherrydale their big bond, will the building open on time???

    • G::TheNativeArlingtonian

      NorthAdams, I do not intend to be a “buzzkill” with this. But our good ArlingtonNow reporter (said with respect as I love this site), painted a fairly rosey picture of the CD Volunteers. That’s fine but I wanted anyone who reads this and get’s their donation letters in the mail to get a different perspective. There are no sour grapes, I am neither a volunteer or paid firefighter. My dad was a paid firefighter with the county and a volunteer before that (when there was no paid dept.) But they have a very inflated view of their role and what they offer, and because of the way they present themselves people give them their hard earned money thinking they are getting better fire protection and safety. Its not the case. So, as I said, let these guys handle some community support and relations, but that mission clearly presented.

    • FireMarshalBill

      I don’t think G is “picking on” the volunteers, he’s just telling it like it is. Reconsider that annual donation check and consider giving it to a needy charity. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and Happy Festivus for the rest-of-us!

  • Arlington, Northside

    The Arlington County Fire Department has volunteer Firefighters that supplement career staffing on the frontline firefighting apparatus. Many are certified at the Fire I/II level and a few are even certified Fire Officers. They perform just like any other County Firefighter at the scene, throwing ladders, pulling windows, entering the building on the hoseline, and/or anything else the unit officer orders done. They primely operate out of stations 3, 5, and 6 but have been known to ride elsewhere. The career firefighters they serve beside seem to appreciate the added manpower. The County Volunteers also operate the Light and Air Unit owned by the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department (Station 3) which responds to all second alarm fires and when requested by an incident commander or the fire marshall. The Volunteers in the County also operate a BLS Ambulance on weekends and during peak call periods freeing up the County ALS Medic Units by taking BLS calls off their hands and assisting on ALS calls by providing extra hands and resources.

    Volunteers do not completely staff any suppression equipment, and career firefighters provide minimum staffing on all pieces of suppression apparatus in the county, however, volunteers DO take part in primary FIREFIGHTING operations and have carried 75+ lbs of PPE, tools and hoses up many many stairs in hot and smoky conditions. It is not a “fantasy”. While many of the volunteers have full time jobs that leaving to join the fire service as a full time career would mean a serious financial hit to their families, in recent years a few ACFD volunteers have gone on to Career Firefighter Positions at Montgomery County and Alexandria Fire Departments.

    Volunteer Firefighters and the County CERT program, while maybe not needed during the average day to day routine, will be a great asset to the county when the next 9/11 or Katrina happens here, and who knows, they just might be the critical help that is needed by an Arlington County resident or a fellow firefighter when riding 5th. No one is trying to take anything away from the dedicated career staff, no one is saying that the tax payers are not getting their full value out of the career firefighters of Arlington County, but don’t try to minimize the effort, training, commitment and contribution on the volunteers either. The intigration of the Career and Volunteer Firefighters in Arlington is pretty unique and works very well. Volunteer Firefighters and the County CERT program, while maybe not needed during the average day to day routine, will be a great asset to the county when the next 9/11 or Katrina happens here, and who knows, they just might be the critical help that is needed by an Arlington County resident or a fellow firefighter when riding 5th.

    The training of these Volunteer Firefighters is paid for through fund raisers, donations, and the volunteer’s pockets, not through any county taxes. It is a pretty good value for those that understand the role of the volunteers.

    • Box Alarm

      I have never seen a volunteer at Station 5 in 19 years of service… I do appreciate your dedication, service and love of the fire service. I also appreciate the big help the volunteers are when we have big storms by running around and checking downed wires so that the fire companies can stay in service for more serious emergencies. The Basic Life Support Ambulance is a big help as well, when it is in service. The Falls Church Volunteers are somewhat active but the Cherrydale group is just a social club. I urge residents to donate to a more useful cause.

  • FireMarshalBill

    We appreciate your dedication and your service putting up Ambulance 102. In 10 years of service, FireMarshalBill hasn’t seen volunteers actively participating in “interior” firefighting operations. There is too much liability involved. On rare occurrences, they are seen on Truck 106 helping the driver with ladders or the wagon driver flake out hose.

  • ARLRes

    It unfortunate to see that folks forget these individuals are dedicating their own personal time, and not being paid to provide a FREE service to the community. Yes, there are county employees who are paid to provide fire fighting services, however, with continuously limited budgets, the fire department’s budget as well as all funding for county services continue to narrow. It makes me comfortable that we have “back-up” to supplement the voids the current budget leaves. Many quickly forget that the Arlington County Fire Department’s beginnings were that of a volunteer organization. I find it humbling that that legacy lives on. They provide a service to the community in a variety of capacities that many other communities around us don’t have. Regardless of the role they play in the organization, they do it at their own free will without benefit. Let’s not forget that.

    • FireMarshalBill

      “They provide a service to the community in a variety of capacities that many other communities around us don’t have” …. As a matter of fact, many communities surrounding Arlington DO have volunteer firefighters, who ACTUALLY run emergency calls. Prince William County is about 40-50% staffed by volunteers, mostly on weekends. Montgomery County has a small volunteer presence in more rural parts of the County, and also operates Bethesda Chevy Chase ambulance, a very busy organization. Prince George’s County has a large presence of volunteer staffing, mostly weekends and nights. Fairfax County also has a few volunteer units that are placed in service from time to time. But what all of these jurisdictions are going through is the same thing that Arlington County, the District of Columbia, and Alexandria already went through. The cost of living here is too high, and demands more and more time for people to make ends meet, not hang out playing fireman. Volunteer participation in the outer lying counties is slowly diminishing, as it is throughout the country.


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