School Bus Cameras Stop Issuing Tickets — The stop arm cameras on Arlington public school buses are no longer sending citations to those who drive by the buses while the stop signs are activated. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring determined that Arlington does not have the legal authority from the General Assembly to issue summonses from school bus cameras by mail. [Washington Post]
Laundry Room Fire at The Shelton — Yesterday around 6 p.m. a dryer in a laundry room at The Shelton apartment building (3125 24th Street S.) in Nauck caught fire. The fire was reportedly controlled by a sprinkler system, but not before filling the third floor of the building with heavy smoke and prompting an evacuation. [Twitter]
Last Weekend for Hudson Trail Outfitters — The local adventure retailer Hudson Trail Outfitters says this will be their last weekend in business. The company, which has a store on Pentagon Row, is offering 50-80 percent off remaining items. [Hudson Trail Outfitters]
Rep. Beyer Wins Spelling Bee — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) won the National Press Club’s annual Politicians vs. Press spelling bee Wednesday night. Beyer won by correctly spelling “apostasy” in round 23. The win keeps the spelling bee title in Virginia, after Sen. Tim Kaine won last year. [Politico]
‘Most Interesting Man in Arlington’ Contest — Don Tito in Clarendon will be hosting its first ever “Most Interesting Man in Arlington” contest Saturday night. Hosted by Mel, of 107.3’s morning show, the contest will judge based on looks and a series of challenges. [Clarendon Nights]
Discover Cherrydale This Weekend — The Cherrydale Business Alliance will hold its second annual “Discover Cherrydale” festival on Sunday afternoon. The event will feature vendor booths, a beer garden, food trucks and various family-friendly activities. [ARLnow Events]
Red Top Given Green Light for Stickers — An Arlington County Board-ordered review of new stickers on the back window of Red Top taxicabs has found no safety hazard. Lou Gatti, a long-time cab driver who is now an industry critic and who was the one who raised concerns, was disappointed by the findings. “There are no checks and balances in this industry, except for me,” Gatti is quoted as saying. “I can’t understand why no one seems to care about the facts and the laws, except me.” [InsideNova]
Blue Line Issues This Morning — A faulty switch near the Pentagon prompted Metro to route Blue Line trains over the Yellow Line bridge for a significant portion of this morning’s rush hour. [Twitter]
Arlington County firefighters extinguished an apartment fire in the Penrose neighborhood this afternoon.
The fire was reported in a garden-style apartment on the 2700 block of 8th Street S. just after 4 p.m. Firefighters arrived to find a small fire in an upstair apartment.
The fire was quickly extinguished but water damage is reported in the apartment and the apartment below it.
This was the third small structure fire reported in Arlington in the past two days.
Photo via @ACFDPIO
Vihstadt Endorses Dorsey, McMenamin — Independent Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt has endorsed fellow independent Michael McMenamin and Democrat Christian Dorsey for County Board. Dorsey said in a statement that he is “honored to have the support of all five members of the Arlington County Board, including John Vihstadt,” but also reiterated his support for Democratic ticket mate Katie Cristol. [InsideNova]
ACFD Responds to Small Fires — The Arlington County Fire Department has battled two small fires within the past two days. On Saturday around noon on the 2300 block of S. Arlington Mill Drive, firefighters extinguished a fire on the back porch of a home. This morning ACFD extinguished a small apartment fire on the 4200 block of 2nd Road N. [Twitter, Twitter]
‘JPod’ Discussion Tonight — The Columbia Heights Civic Association tonight will discuss monorail-like “JPods” as a possible transit alternative for Columbia Pike. Residents will hear from JPods booster Bill James at tonight’s meeting at the Walter Reed Community Center. [CHCA]
Affordable Housing Opponents Vow Budget Fight — Now that Arlington’s Affordable Housing Master Plan has been approved, opponents of the plan are planning to try to stymie it within the county’s budget process next year. “The plan didn’t obligate the county, directly or indirectly, to spend money,” the chair of the Arlington County Republican Committee is quoted as saying. “The testimony at the budget hearing is going to determine how that is funded.” [InsideNova]
A fire on the sixth floor of the Virginia Hospital Center caused the building to be evacuated and patients to be moved to another part of the floor.
The fire was reported around 3:30 p.m. It was caused by medical equipment, including an oxygen tank, on a stretcher, said Battalion Chief Dan Fitch.
“Patients in that section of the floor were transferred to another section on the same floor, and we protected them in place and secured the rest of the floor,” Fitch said.
No was injured.
Sprinklers extinguished most of the fire before firefighters arrived, but there was smoke on the floor, he said. Firefighters could be seen using hoses, as well, according to one observer.
Firefighters were able to ventilate the sixth floor and patients were moved back to their rooms around 3:45 p.m.
Some people are going back into the hospital. Hose near me is still pumping water. No word from fire officials. That's who I trust.
— Charlotte Volpe (@flautista2011) September 24, 2015
As of 1:15 p.m., Lorcom Lane had reopened to traffic, except for the right yield lane from Lee Highway. Crews were on scene fixing the pole.
The cause of the fire may have been a couple wires touching, said a Dominion worker. There were no flames when the worker arrived on scene, but wires can spark, he said.
When Nathaniel Valenti, 20, missed his first day of classes at Marymount University this year, he had a good excuse — he was fighting wildfires.
The junior criminal justice major from Dover, Delaware, spent 14 days as a part-time federal employee, getting close to the big fires that have been raging in the west all summer. One fire he helped to contain had burned 8,700 acres near Toston, Montana.
“The first night we were holding the line and there were trees torching 20 or 30 feet away from me,” Valenti said. “That’s when the entire tree just goes up in flames, with really high flames and intense heat.”
That became a normal sight for him.
After completing a 40-hour firefighting course at West Virginia University last summer, Valenti spent the end of this summer enduring thick smoke and 90-degree weather while in firefighting gear, including a helmet, goggles and fire-retardant clothing.
Valenti had no firefighting experience before this summer, but he did have a role model in the profession. His father, Michael Valenti, is the state forester of Delaware and has been fighting fires in the western states most summers since 1998. This summer, the younger Valenti went with his dad, who was the chief of their 20-man crew.
“I was very happy the planets aligned so that we could do this together,” the elder Valenti said.
The group slept in tents as far as 15 miles from the flames, to avoid the smoke. Each morning they drove as close as they could before hiking to the fire lines. They didn’t leave the fireground all day, so everyone, including rookie Valenti, carried 25-pound packs that included an emergency fire shelter, food and more than a gallon of water.
“Once you go out for the day, you can’t get water anywhere else,” Valenti said. “So in addition to what you carry, you drink a lot in the morning and in the evening.”
Although he was new to firefighting, Valenti is not new to camping and being outdoors. He has gone on extended 14-day backpacking and trips with his Boy Scout troops. Valenti, his three brothers and father are all Eagle Scouts.
Michael Valenti said this has been an exceptionally bad year for wildfires and the need for firefighters is high. He urged anyone who is interested to go to their state’s department of forestry for more information on how to get involved.
One person he doesn’t have to convince is his son.
“Growing up on the East Coast I never really understood the impact these fires can have on communities and towns — even entire states,” Nathaniel Valenti said. “I was glad to be able to go out there and make a difference. Whenever we had a reason to be in towns, people would come out and thank us. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do it again next year.”
Petition to Rename DCA Nears Goal — A petition to rename Reagan National Airport “Washington National Airport” has gathered nearly 70,000 of its goal of 75,000 signatures. The petition is a progressive group’s response to Republican outrage over President Obama’s renaming of Mount McKinley to its original name, Denali. [CREDO Action, Washington Post]
Fire at Shopping Center — Arlington County firefighters battled a small blaze at the Lyon Village Shopping Center last night. [Twitter]
Meeting on Hospital Expansion — Arlington County and Virginia Hospital Center officials are holding a meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) night regarding a proposed land swap between the county and VHC, which would allow the hospital to expand. [Arlington County]
Back to School, Back to Traffic — Arlington Public Schools students, along with students in other Northern Virginia localities, are returning to school today. Thanks to the influx of school buses and commuters returning from vacation on the roads, the first day after Labor Day is dubbed “Terrible Traffic Tuesday” by AAA Mid Atlantic.
Dozens of residents were evacuated from The Carlton condominium at 4600 S. Four Mile Run Drive Friday night.
The fire started in a 12th floor condo around 10:30 p.m. The blaze was extinguished before the flames could spread to another unit. At least one person was reportedly treated on scene for smoke inhalation.
Four Mile Run Drive was closed while firefighters battled the blaze. The county fire marshal is investigating the cause of the fire.
Kitchen Fire at Zaika — A kitchen fire closed Zaika restaurant at Market Common Clarendon last night. Firefighters had to ventilate smoke from the Indian restaurant after quickly extinguishing the small blaze. [Twitter]
Nude Glebe Road Runner Identified — Police say the man arrested for running naked along Glebe Road while screaming at passing cars is Timothy Lowe. Lowe was previously arrested for doing pushups in the buff, in the middle of a street in the Nauck neighborhood. He also spoke out against alleged police harassment at a community forum last year. Police found a “large quantity of crack” after Lowe was arrested yesterday, said Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
History of Arlington View Co-op to Be Preserved — Arlington County is working on a plan to help preserve the history of the George Washington Carver Cooperative Homes in the Arlington View neighborhood. The circa-1945 cooperative is set to be razed to make way for a new townhouse development after residents agreed to sell it to developer Craftmark Homes. [InsideNova]
East Falls Church Profiled — The Washington Post profiles the real estate market of East Falls Church, which will be undergoing some changes as the area around the Metro station eventually develops into a “neighborhood center district” over the next couple of decades. [Washington Post]
New APS Teachers Hired — Arlington Public Schools has hired 325 new teachers this summer to keep up with rising enrollments and staff retirements. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Around 10:15 a.m., firefighters were called to the Concord apartment building at 2600 Crystal Drive for a report of a fire on a fifth or sixth floor balcony.
Firefighters found a computer on fire on the balcony. According to scanner traffic, a resident had brought the computer outside after it caught fire in the apartment.
Firefighters are now working on smoke ventilation while the county fire marshal investigates the exact cause of the fire.
Update: 2600 blk Crystal Dr, small computer fire on the balcony has been extinguished, units working on smoke removal
— Arlington Fire (@ACFDPIO) July 24, 2015
Firefighters battled flames near the roofline of the building, on the 1600 block of 21st Road N., starting around 9:00 p.m.
Smoke from the fire could be seen from several miles away.
As of 10:00 p.m. the fire had been mostly extinguished and firefighters were checking for hotspots. The residents from at least one apartment in the building are expected to be displaced by the blaze.
#Breaking: House struck by lightning on the 1600 block of 21st Rd. First arriving unit has reported smoke from the roof.
— Arlington Fire (@ACFDPIO) June 24, 2015
Update- Units have encountered fire due to the lightning strike and are working to locate and extinguish it now.
— Arlington Fire (@ACFDPIO) June 24, 2015
Update- Fire is in the roofline of the building. Units are working to open up the roof to get to the fire.
— Arlington Fire (@ACFDPIO) June 24, 2015
— BADGE-258 (@CAPT258) June 24, 2015
Photo courtesy @ACFDPIO
Fire at Columbia Pike Gas Station — A small fire, reportedly started by an acetylene torch, prompted a large fire department response at the Citgo gas station on Columbia Pike yesterday morning. The fire was quickly extinguished. [Twitter]
Bills Proposed to Scuttle Immigration Office — Three Republicans are sponsoring legislation in the House of Representatives that would block the Obama administration from opening a new immigration office in Crystal City. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office could bring some 1,000 jobs to the area, but Republicans worry that it may eventually be intended to process cases of what they term Obama’s “executive amnesty” program. [Washington Business Journal, Breitbart]
Arlington Housing Cools a Bit — Arlington’s hot real estate market cooled a bit in May, according to recently released housing sales data. The volume of sales was down 10 percent in May while the median selling price held steady. [Washington Business Journal]
Association Moving to Crystal City — The Aluminum Association, a trade group, is moving into a new headquarters in Crystal City this week. The association is moving into the refurbished, LEED Gold certified office building at 1400 Crystal Drive. [Associations Now]
Flickr pool photo by Alves Family
Arlington County firefighters battled blazes on Columbia Pike and in the Long Branch Creek neighborhood over the weekend.
On Saturday around 2:30 p.m. firefighters extinguished a car fire inside a parking garage on the 26oo block of S. Veitch Street, in Long Branch Creek. No one was hurt.
On Sunday evening firefighters battled flames inside a kitchen hood at the El Rancho Peruvian Chicken restaurant on the 3600 block of Columbia Pike. The fire was extinguished and the county fire marshal stayed on scene to investigate the incident, according to the fire department’s Twitter account.
This was the second fire at the chicken restaurant in about three years.
Photos courtesy @jbester and @Travis_Lane10
(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) A two-story building on the 2700 block of Columbia Pike caught fire at about 10:00 a.m. Tuesday.
The building, the headquarters of High Sierra Pools and former location of Ski Chalet, was safely evacuated, according to scanner traffic and company employees on the scene. Forty minutes after the fire was first reported, firefighters have contained it. Smoke stopped coming out of the building at around 10:40 a.m.
Fire and rescue crews from Fairfax and Alexandria joined the Arlington County Fire Department to battle the flames. The Pike is shut down from S. Walter Reed Drive to Barton Street to accommodate the large response, and ACFD Capt. David Santini expects it to be shut down past noon.
Santini said High Sierra Pools employees smelled smoke and called 911 at 10:05 a.m. When fire crews arrived, they found the fire had originated in the space between the roof and the second floor ceiling.
“We called a second alarm because of the intense work needed to gain access to the roof,” Santini said. “There were heavy fire conditions and we had to tear up several sections to gain ventilation.”
So far, Santini said there’s no estimate on the damage to the building, and inspectors are conducting an investigation to determine the fire’s cause.
The building’s exterior, from the street, looks largely unaffected by the fire, save for a few scorch marks on the roof.
Arlington’s fire stations have been understaffed for too long, Arlington’s fire union says, and after one of the deadliest years from house fires in some time, firefighters are pushing harder than ever for help.
In the past 12 months, five people in Arlington have died from three separate fires. After an early-morning fire in Douglas Park last June, two firefighters had to be sent to the hospital, and a fire in January might have been fatal had the residents of the house in the Old Glebe neighborhood not had an escape plan and working smoke detectors.
Rescue 109, a truck serving the Pentagon City and Columbia Pike area, that transports firefighters to emergency scenes, responded to most, if not all, of those fires. It, along with Tower 104 in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, has been operating with three staffers, one less than the national standard for safe operating.
“There is no doubt that without safe staffing levels on ACFD firetrucks, we will continue to see tragedies occur in Arlington County,” the Local 2800 says on its website.
Last year, Local 2800 issued a similar statement, asking for more staffing. At the time, the Arlington County Board had directed County Manager Barbara Donnellan to conduct a review of public safety staffing and incorporate recommendations into her FY 2016 budget. According to ACFD Chief Jim Schwartz, the study is still ongoing.
There are no new firefighters proposed in Donnellan’s FY 2016 budget. Turning Tower 104 and Rescue 109 into four-person trucks would require adding eight full-time equivalent positions, or $1.3 million, the Local 2800 says.
“The staffing study turned out to be a larger project than I think anyone envisioned,” Schwartz told ARLnow.com today. “I am the one who has been pushing the four-person staffing issue for many, many years. It has been a very, very high priority for us. We’ve been through tough budget times that has made it difficult to add fire staff.”
To try to cover the vacancies, the ACFD has applied for a federal Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response grant. The grant would pay for the positions for two full years, after which Schwartz says the County Board has pledged to assume the ongoing costs.
The ACFD last received a SAFER grant in 2007, and has been denied that last two times it applied. Schwartz said he feels the last two rejections “gives us a leg up this year,” considering the Federal Emergency Management Administration, which awards the grants, likes to “spread the money around.” Schwartz expects to receive a decision on the grant at the end of the summer.
The Local 2800 has been meeting with County Board members this week, proposing it adds between $500,000 and $600,000 to the FY 2016 budget to cover overtime costs and staff the two undermanned trucks.
“This is much cheaper than the 8 FTE option of $1.3 million because it would utilize existing employees and would not incur additional benefits or pension costs,” the Local 2800 leadership told ARLnow.com in a joint statement.
Schwartz said he does not support the Local 2800’s proposal, and added he is already concerned about the amount of overtime his firefighters have been working. The ACFD must have at least 73 people working at all times, and is already forced to keep firefighters for overtime beyond the 56 hours a week they each work.
“On more occasions that I am comfortable with, we have to hold someone on a mandatory basis because we cannot get someone voluntarily to fill the 73 [required on-duty positions],” he said. “I’m concerned about the effect [more overtime] would have on safety. I have great concern about the stress, and the effect extra hours has on performance.”
According to the fire union, the lack of sufficient fire personnel has already led to a hazardous situation. During last March’s house fire in Nauck, the Local 2800 says “a firefighter assigned to Rescue 109 attempted a heroic rescue of two civilians trapped on the second floor of a house fire. While searching for the trapped residents, the firefighter suffered major burns to his body and respiratory tract, requiring a multiple day stay at the Washington Hospital Burn Unit and several months away from work recovering.
“In this situation, only having three firefighters created a difficult, if not impossible task to effect the rescue of the two trapped civilians,” the union leadership continued. “Additionally, had the burned firefighter not been able to self-extricate the house via a ladder, only one other member of Rescue 109 was available to help get him out.”
Schwartz denied that the lack of staffing was to blame for the two deaths in Nauck, saying “I would argue any suggestion that a fourth person on that company would have in any way changed the outcome either to the victims or the firefighter.”
On top of the two understaffed trucks, Schwartz told ARLnow.com ACFD currently has 14 vacancies, from retirements and firefighters leaving the department, that it is looking to fill in the near future.
Photo, top, via @IAFF2800