(Updated at 10:50 a.m.) When the U.S. started evacuating Afghan interpreters on July 30, Arlington-based Ethiopian Community Development Council — better known as ECDC — got to work helping them resettle in Northern Virginia.
The organization, founded to help Ethiopians but which has a more global reach today, is one of three agencies authorized to resettle refugees with Special Immigrant Visas in the region.
“The majority of Afghan SIVs, currently, are being placed in the cities of Denver, Silver Spring, Houston, Arlington, and San Diego,” ECDC spokeswoman Emily Gilkinson said. “In the Arlington area, we have received about five to seven SIV holders, along with their families, per week. There have been a few couples or individuals but generally, family sizes range from 4-10 people. They are staying with their U.S. ties, in hotels or Airbnbs until moving into permanent housing.”
The other authorized resettlement agencies in the area include Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington and Lutheran Social Services.
“Catholic Charities resettles the most refugees in the area, followed by LSS, then by ECDC,” said Bryna Helfer, Arlington County’s assistant county manager for communications and public engagement.
Arlington’s branch of Catholic Charities has welcomed more than 2,600 SIV holders to Northern Virginia in the last six years, and resettled 326 SIV holders — most of whom are from Afghanistan — this fiscal year, said Diana Sims Snider, the deputy director of communications for the diocese.
The organization, based in Arlington with migration and refugee offices in Arlington, Manassas, Fredericksburg and Sterling, is one of about 40 Catholic Charities around the country resettling Afghan families, she said.
For the last three weeks, the military has been facilitating flights from Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, some of which have touched down at Dulles International Airport. Nearly 2,000 Afghan interpreters and other refugees eligible for SIVs have gone to central Virginia’s Fort Lee military base, which is operating as a temporary host facility.
Catholic Charities got to work on July 30, welcoming several planeloads of evacuated Afghan SIV holders at Fort Lee, Snider said.
“Catholic Charities staff provided legal assistance for paperwork completion, translation, child activities, and other essential resources to men, women and children at Fort Lee, Virginia,” she said. “Many of these SIV-holders then traveled on to destinations elsewhere in the U.S. to settle with family already residing in this country. About 35 of those Afghan SIV-holders who came to Fort Lee in August are settling in the Diocese of Arlington.”
The situation has become more dire and unpredictable with the fall of Kabul.
“We receive notification of arrivals only a few days before, and therefore it is very difficult to predict how many we will receive,” Gilkinson said. “We are doing our best to be flexible and responsive to the requests and information whenever it comes, as we recognize the urgency of the situation.”
Video: People run on tarmac of Kabul international airport as a US military aircraft attempts to take off. pic.twitter.com/9qA36HS0WQ
— TOLOnews (@TOLOnews) August 16, 2021
not 1 of the people I know on the ground got in and made an evac flight.
what’s the point of the airport being operational if no one can get in? and there are no excuses – there are now more troops in Afghanistan than there have been in years. #EvacuateAfghans pic.twitter.com/JWaPVPQtkM
— Arash Azizzada آرش (@87films) August 19, 2021
How to help
ECDC and Catholic Charities both have listed ways that people can help.
“We greatly appreciate the interest that people from the local community have shown in supporting SIVs upon arrival,” Gilkinson said. “Successfully welcoming and integrating these individuals and other refugees escaping similar dangerous situations across the world is something our agency cannot do alone.”
(Updated at 8 p.m.) Arlington’s Emergency Communications Center (ECC), which handles 911 calls and the dispatching of emergency personnel, was evacuated late Friday afternoon, ARLnow has learned.
The evacuation happened around 4 p.m. Police officers were told during that time to restrict all radio transmissions to emergency traffic only. There was no indication that the disruption affected any crucial police operations.
A county spokeswoman tells ARLnow that the evacuation was due to a possible coronavirus case.
“Due to an employee reporting symptoms consistent with COVID-19 — and out of an abundance of caution — the Emergency Communications Center (ECC) is going through a deep-clean,” said Jennifer K. Smith. “The ECC relocated to the alternate ECC today, which provides 100% redundancy, and we expect the ECC to be back in its primary space Saturday evening.”
“Arlington maintains comprehensive continuity of operations plans to ensure continued access to critical services in public safety, including 911,” she added.
The backup facility has some drawbacks when it comes to mitigating the spread of disease, ARLnow hears, including being smaller, with less room for social distancing among the dispatchers.
File photo courtesy Arlington County
An office building in Virginia Square has been evacuated after a reported chemical spill in the building.
Firefighters — including hazmat teams and medics — responded to the Ballston Gateway building at 3865 Wilson Blvd around 1:45 p.m., for a report of up to 20 people suffering medical symptoms after a coolant tower leaked chemicals into the building’s penthouse.
The building was evacuated amid a large fire department response, which is currently blocking at least one westbound lane of Wilson Blvd.
Some office workers on lower floors of the building have since been let back in. First responders on the scene radioed fire dispatch to report only a couple of people with minor symptoms, including eye irritation and nausea. There’s no word yet on which chemical might have leaked.
Thus far there has been no report of anyone being taken to the hospital.
The office building is home to a number of companies, including high-profile Arlington startup ThreatConnect.
#Breaking: Units on 3800 block of Wilson Blvd for reported chemical spill in Penthouse level of building. Crews assessing situation. No danger to public, but please avoid the area part of Wilson Blvd will be blocked while crews work to mitigate the situation. pic.twitter.com/NfRC9WQWEU
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) August 22, 2019
Vernon Miles contributed to this report
(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) A reported ruptured gas line behind Papillon Cycles prompted evacuations and a road closure near the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive.
As of 2:10 p.m., the gas leak has been stopped and police re-opened Walter Reed Drive, after temporarily closing it between the Pike and 9th Street S.
Some stores in the area, on the 2800 block of Columbia Pike, were evacuated during the incident, according to scanner traffic.
One restaurant owner said that means their business had to close, but told ARLnow, “but that’s fine, it’s a Wednesday so it’s slow anyway.”
A full fire department response has been dispatched to the scene as a precaution, as gas company crews work to stop the leak.
900 blk S Walter Reed Dr: @washingtongas has controlled the gas leak. ACFD crews have checked surrounding buildings to make sure they are safe. All units have returned to service and cleared the scene. pic.twitter.com/qt8nFF2i3H
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) August 14, 2019
Students and staff have been evacuated from Jamestown Elementary School in North Arlington after smoke reportedly filled the school’s boiler room.
The evacuation comes amid frigid temperatures below 20 degrees.
Arlington County firefighters are investigating the smoke and believe it may be the result of a mechanical issue, according to scanner traffic. Police are blocking off streets due to the fire department response.
Those evacuated from the building are expected to be let back in soon.
Motorcycle Crash Closes Columbia Pike — Columbia Pike was closed in both directions for just over two hours this morning while police investigated a serious accident. A motorcycle reportedly crashed into a minivan between S. Frederick and Dinwiddie street, near the Arlington Mill Community Center. The motorcycle rider was seriously hurt and two people in the van were also taken to the hospital. [WJLA, Twitter]
Man Arrested for Threatening FCC Chair’s Family — A California man has been arrested and charged with sending emails that threatened to murder FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s family, over his support of the rollback of net neutrality rules. Pai has two children and lives in Arlington. Per an affidavit, one of the emails “listed the names and addresses of three preschools located in or around Arlington, Virginia, followed by the following sentence: ‘I will find your children and I will kill them.'” [Gizmodo, Washington Post]
Car Fire in Cherrydale — A car caught on fire in the garage of an apartment building in Cherrydale early this morning. No one was hurt. The cause of the fire is under investigation. [Twitter, Twitter]
Plane Evacuated on DCA Tarmac — “Passengers were forced to evacuate a United Airlines plane at Reagan National Airport on Sunday after smoke was reported in the cabin… The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said that about 1 p.m. Sunday, Houston-bound flight 6122 was taxiing for takeoff when emergency crews were called for a report of smoke in the cabin. The plane’s emergency slides were deployed, and all passengers and crew members exited ‘without incident.'” [Washington Post, Fox News]
Lee Highway Planning to Move Forward? — “It’s been delayed, delayed and delayed some more. But, Arlington’s top elected official promises, the long-awaited study of development options along the Lee Highway corridor will be up and running by the end of the year.” [InsideNova]
Photo courtesy R. Johnson
Arlington County firefighters are investigating light smoke that filled a classroom at Taylor Elementary School around lunchtime today.
A large fire department response was dispatched to the school at 2600 N. Stuart Street. Students and staff have been evacuated, according to scanner traffic.
No fire or flames have been found and firefighters are investigating work on the roof as a possible cause, according to radio traffic. Police are blocking off roads around the school.
#Alert: Units on scene 2600 blk N Stuart Street for reports of smoke. Light smoke condition found. Building fully evacuated. Crews investigating source.
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) April 24, 2018
Update at 3:15 p.m. — The all clear was given around 1:30 p.m. and Marymount’s campus was reopened, according to police. The threat that prompted the evacuation was posted on social media, according to the university.
FINAL: Campus has been swept, determined to be clear and is now re-opened.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) April 1, 2018
Marymount University Statement Regarding Campus Evacuation
April 1, 2018: pic.twitter.com/6u8Zg1sj1l
— Marymount University (@marymountu) April 1, 2018
Earlier: One suspect has been taken into police custody after a bomb threat prompted the evacuation of Marymount University.
Bomb dogs are sweeping the north Arlington campus “out of an abundance of caution,” according to the Arlington County Police Department. Students and others on campus have been evacuated to a nearby park.
The threat comes on both April Fool’s Day and Easter Sunday. The university is closed through Tuesday due to the Easter holiday, according to an academic calendar.
ACPD is asking the public to avoid the area as the investigation continues.
More via social media:
Campus Evacuation! Campus Evacuation due to bomb threat. This is not a drill. Entire campus community walk to park across from Osta. Follow directions from authorities.
— Marymount University (@marymountu) April 1, 2018
UPDATE: One suspect has been taken into custody. Campus remains evacuated while EOD K9s sweep campus out of an abundance of caution.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) April 1, 2018
Dear Marymount students, please take the evacuation directions seriously, and we will update you with more information. This is not a drill. pic.twitter.com/rmkYBwfbXS
— Marymount Univ. SGA (@MarymountSGA) April 1, 2018
H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program students were evacuated earlier today (Thursday) after a small fire in a science lab.
The Arlington County Fire Department responded to the school at 4100 Vacation Lane just after 12 p.m. An Arlington Public Schools spokesman said some paper caught on fire during an experiment in the lab.
The fire was quickly put out by the teacher before firefighters arrived, with students evacuated as a precaution. A fire department spokesman said firefighters monitored the air and checked for hazards, but no issues were found. The smoke cleared naturally, the spokesman said.
There were no injuries and there was only minor damage to the equipment being used. Students returned to classes soon after.
#FYI: ACFD responded to small fire @APSVirginia @HBWProgram science lab. Quickly put out by teacher.Children evacuated.No injuries.No damage pic.twitter.com/ijpgqK77VR
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) October 26, 2017
Update at 6 p.m. — Arlington County Police have issued the following statement about today’s incident.
Staff at Bishop O’Connell High School contacted an Arlington County Police School Resource Officer after they received a bomb threat that was telephoned to the school. After the school was evacuated, canine resources from the US Park Police, WMATA Metro Transit Police, and Pentagon Force Protection Agency assisted Arlington County Police canine in conducting a thorough and systematic search of the school.
Students were able to be evacuated by school staff with the assistance of Arlington County Police Officers and they were sheltered in nearby Tuckahoe Elementary School, who was having a Parent-Teacher conference day.
There was no evidence of any explosives or hoax devices and the school was deemed clear a short time later.
It appears that this bomb threat may be related to similar threats in the region based on their nature and timing. We will work closely with the other affected jurisdictions to investigate these incidents.
Update at 2 p.m. — Students are now being allowed back into Bishop O’Connell.
Update at 1:10 p.m. — The evacuated students from the high school have been moved from the football field to Tuckahoe Elementary School, across the street. K-9 units from Metro Transit Police, U.S. Park Police and Pentagon police have arrived on scene to aid in a sweep of the school.
Update at 1:05 p.m. — Tuckahoe parents were sent a text message saying the school was being secured in connection with the Bishop O’Connell incident and evacuation.
In addition to O’Connell and George Mason High, evacuations are also underway due to threats received at five other schools in Northern Virginia, NBC 4 reports: Herndon High School in Herndon, McLean High School in McLean, The Potomac School in McLean, Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn and Falls Church High School in Falls Church. (We’ve since updated this list as NBC 4 corrected its article.)
Earlier: Bishop O’Connell High School is being evacuated due to a bomb threat, ARLnow.com has learned.
Police and K-9 units are en route to the private Catholic school.
The evacuation was reported just minutes after another local high school — George Mason High School in Falls Church — was evacuated due to a bomb threat.
George Mason High School is being evacuated following receipt of a bomb threat this morning. MORE: https://t.co/4YWmBzYdDn
— FCCPSAlert (@fccpsalert) March 4, 2016
Arlington Police HQ Evacuated Due to Bomb Threat — The Arlington County Police headquarters in Courthouse was evacuated for several hours Saturday night after police received an “automated phone call” that made a bomb threat. Bomb-sniffing dogs got a “preliminary hit” but a sweep of the building came up empty. [WJLA]
Arlington’s MLK Tribute — Arlington County held its 47th annual tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. on Sunday. County Board members were among those in attendance, honoring Dr. King. [WTOP]
Tax Bills Could Be Going Up — Unless the Arlington County Board lowers the property tax rate, the tax bill for the average homeowner will be going up to a record $6,011. The average assessed value of residential properties in Arlington increased 2.8 percent year-over-year. [InsideNova]
Tour of Ballston Tech Office — Ballston-based cybersecurity firm ThreatConnect has grown to more than 100 employees and is continuing to expand. The company’s “hip headquarters… comes complete with some beautiful design work and creative Star Wars-centric accents.” [DC Inno]