Arlington, VA

Some seniors in the right place at the right time helped to stop a fire in Ballston.

A group of seniors from the Arlington Neighborhood Village program were playing their weekly bocce match Monday (Aug. 5) at the courts near the Ballston public parking garage when they noticed a distinctly smoky smell.

“All of us kept smelling smoke, but at first we couldn’t tell where it was coming from,” Gary Eiserman, one of the players on the green team, told ARLnow in an email. “Then I noticed smoke rising out of the bushes near the bocce courts.”

As the players approached, they poked around and saw smoke coming up through the mulch at the base of the bushes.

“We stomped on what embers we could find, then doused the area with water from one of our water bottles,” Eiserman said. “We figured the fire was out, and went back to the game, but shortly after that we smelled smoke and saw more smoke in the bushes.  We didn’t have more water to put on the fire, and it was very close to a large transformer, so at that point we decided to call for help, telling them that it wasn’t an emergency, but someone should come and put it out.”

Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Ben O’Bryant said firefighters from Engine 102 were able to extinguish the smoldering fire with a fire extinguisher. Firefighters at the scene told the players that the dryness of the mulch meant it was a good thing the seniors called when they did, according to Eiserman.

“We were very impressed with the firefighters,” Helen Onufrak, one of the players on the red team, said. “It certainly added excitement to our weekly bocce game.”

The group posed for a photo with the firefighters, before the ACFD squad departed. The game then continued, with red team beating the green team 16 to 7.

While recounting the eventful bocce outing to ARLnow, Eiserman offered some headline ideas.

“I also have a couple of suggestions for titles: ‘Great Bocce Balls of Fire!'” Eiserman said, “or: ‘Bocce Ballers Battle Burning Bush, Blaze Beaten By Ballston’s Bravest.'”

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