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Arlington County Fire Department in training (courtesy of Arlington County Fire Department)

Over 13 years ago, Arlington’s fire and police departments first teamed up to better address active shooter situations.

Since then, their partnership — called the Rescue Task Force — has become the standard for when police and fire personnel respond together to high-threat situations, according to The National Fire Protection Association. The departments’ model was even adopted for the 2012 London Olympics.

In recent years, the task force has taken on a new threat requiring teamwork between police and fire: explosives.

The expanding role of the task force reflects how the fire department’s responsibilities have evolved over the last decade, as well as an increased need for intra-agency cooperation to handle complex situations. As public safety threats have changed, so too have the duties of firefighters. Gone are the days when they just fought fires — now, they save lives in active shooter situations and defuse bombs.

“I would love to be able to go back in time and ride on the tailboard and just put out fires but that’s not the world we live in,” said Arlington County Fire Department Captain John Delaney, on an episode of the Fire Engineering Podcast. “This is a new world order and there’s new expectations placed on the fire service and we and our leaders have to rise up and meet those expectations.”

The idea for the Rescue Task Force originated in 2007, when ACFD was training for a school-shooter scenario at Marymount University, said Delaney.

Under the protocol at the time, the fire department had to wait until police located the shooter to enter the building and tend to victims. The department’s medical director, Dr. Reed Smith, and a few colleagues raised concerns that — if this had been a real school shooting — the people shot would have died by the time the fire department arrived.

In response, the fire department reimagined its approach to high threat situations, the captain said. Now, police identify “warm zones,” or areas the shooter has visited and since left — firefighters are dispatched to these zones to tend to victims while police continue searching for the shooter.

After some convincing, firefighters got on board, and the Rescue Task Force was born, said Delaney. The first responders’ gear now includes bulletproof vests and tourniquets, reflecting this new role in active-shooter situations.

“We’d always had a conservative, reserved approach and that has changed since we accepted this higher level of risk,” Delaney said. “We know we’ll save lives.”

Over the past three to four years, the task force’s attention has shifted to explosive threats, too. Originally, the response was somewhat fragmented: either a bomb technician from the fire department or an officer from the police department would assess the threat, said ACFD spokesman Lt. Nate Hiner.

Now, the departments work together: an ACPD explosives K-9, a trained handler, and an ACFD bomb technician examine the threat together, and if the trio determines it’s unsafe, the fire department’s bomb squad deals with the object, Hiner said.

Delaney said the next focus area for the task force could be refining its response to fires not as just fires, but as weapons. Intentionally-set fires are becoming a more common threat, he said.

According to Hiner, the benefits of the police-fire partnership extend beyond high threat situations.

“In preparing for these events, it’s boosted our ability to respond to everyday events in integrated ways,” he said.

Delaney said the task force has become an essential part of the work both departments do. He encouraged other fire and police departments to prepare for high threat situations together.

“Any chief in any fire department that doesn’t think that [a high threat situation] is a possibility within their jurisdiction is effing kidding themselves,” Delaney said on the podcast.

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Billy’s Deli/Cafe is now open in Cherrydale (courtesy of Bill Hamrock)

Those who missed Billy’s Cheesesteaks in Cherrydale for the last year and a half can now get a taste of those sandwiches again.

Two weeks ago, Bill Hamrock — the old sandwich stop’s namesake and former co-owner — opened Billy’s Deli/Cafe at 3907 Lee Highway, the same spot where he opened Billy’s Cheesesteaks in 2011.

And Hamrock, who stepped away from Billy’s Cheesesteaks about five years ago, is back at the helm. While the name and menu may be familiar, he tells ARLnow that Billy’s Deli/Cafe is an entirely new business.

“Everything about it is better: new floors, new walls, new roof, new air conditioning. I think the food is better,” he said.

The new cafe is serving Billy’s famous cheesesteaks as well as other trusty dishes Hamrock says he has perfected, such as hot pita sandwiches, during his more than two decades in the food service industry. Hamrock also owns an eatery named for him in Fairfax City, Hamrock’s Restaurant.

In addition to chicken souvlaki, gyros, mozzarella chicken hot pita sandwiches and other fare, the deli and cafe will serve homemade ice cream and fresh-baked cookies, he said.

Back in January 2020 — just before the pandemic — ARLnow reported that Billy’s Cheesesteaks was closing temporarily along with the restaurant next door, Bistro 29. The then-owner, Kostas Kapasouris, told ARLnow the decision was so that he could “make the restaurants better.”

Eventually, both restaurants permanently closed. According to some new signage, a Uighur restaurant called Bostan is set to replace Bistro 29.

“Hopefully, they will be open in the next one, two, three months,” Hamrock said.

Next door, the new Billy’s space is 800 square feet and will cater to carryout, operating on several apps, including ChowNow, Grubhub, Uber Eats and DoorDash.

“We’ll probably add to that as we go,” said Hamrock.

Those who do wish to sit at one of the eight seats inside the Lee Highway location will be greeted by a montage of historical photos of Arlington. Billy’s owner is a self-described history buff, who has written a book on Arlington history, called “We are Arlington.”

“I’m just excited about being back in Cherrydale and back in Arlington,” Hamrock said. “It’s a great neighborhood, great location. I like the neighbors and the community.”

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Fourth of July fireworks, as seen from Long Bridge Park (photo via Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation)

Arlington County is closing some roads and services in observance of Independence Day.

Since the Fourth of July falls on a Sunday this year, county facilities and services will close or operate on holiday schedules on Monday. Libraries and indoor parks and recreation centers will be closed Sunday and Monday, and the county will not enforce parking meter limits either day.

Courts and state DMV offices will also be closed on Monday.

Arlington Transit will run buses along a few of its routes on Sunday schedules on both Sunday and Monday, but otherwise, bus service will not be available. Trash, recycling and yard waste collection, by contrast, will operate as usual on Monday.

The road closures, meanwhile, “are designed to facilitate the safe passage of large crowds for the Independence Day events and fireworks,” according to a county press release.

There will be a display at the National Mall this year, but, like last year Arlington will have no formal viewing events. Crowds will likely gather at the usual spots: the Iwo Jima memorial, the Air Force Memorial, Long Bridge Park, Rosslyn Gateway Park and Key Bridge, for example.

“Motorists should expect significant delays, particularly leading up to and after the fireworks display,” said the press release. “The Arlington County Police Department is reminding drivers that stopping or standing in a lane of traffic to observe the fireworks is illegal and violators may be issued a citation.”

Street parking near the Iwo Jima memorial, Long Bridge Park and the Air Force Memorial will be restricted, according to the release, which advises attendees to use Metro.

The following roadways will be closed to accommodate the festivities, per ACPD:

Route 50 – Near Rosslyn – 3:30 to 11:00 PM Closure

  • Exit Ramp from Westbound Route 50 to N. Lynn Street (Rosslyn exit)
  • Exit Ramp from Eastbound Route 50 to N. Meade Street (Rosslyn exit)

US Marine Corps War Memorial – 3:30 PM to 11:00 PM Closure

  • N. Meade Street at Marshall Drive
  • Exit Ramp from N. Meade Street to Route 50 Eastbound
  • Route 110 South onto Marshall Drive
  • N. Meade Street near the Route 50 Ramps

Radnor/Fort Myer Heights – Near the US Marine Corps War Memorial – 3:30 PM to 11:00 PM Closure

  • Ramp from Arlington Boulevard East to N. Rhodes/Rolfe/Queen Street (Emergency Vehicles Only)
  • N. Rhodes Street and Arlington Boulevard Access Road (Emergency Vehicles Only)
  • N. Rhodes Street and N. 14th Street (Local Traffic Only)
  • N. Nash Street and Arlington Boulevard Access Road
  • Arlington Boulevard Access and N. Meade Street
  • N. Nash Street and N. 14th Street
  • N. Meade Street and N. 14th Street

Foxcroft Heights – Near the Air Force Memorial – 4:30 PM to 11:00 PM Closure

  • Columbia Pike in both directions at S. Oak Street
  • The exit from Westbound Washington Boulevard to Eastbound Columbia Pike/S. Orme Street
  • Columbia Pike and S. Joyce Street
  • Southgate Road and S. Oak Street
  • Columbia Pike and Southgate Road
  • Columbia Pike and S. Ode Street

From 6 a.m. to midnight, Memorial Bridge and Memorial Circle to and including Lincoln Memorial Circle will be closed, according to the National Park Service.

The following roadways may be subject to closures, according to ACPD’s release:

Route 50 East – Near Courthouse

  • Route 50 East exit for 10th Street (All Eastbound traffic)
  • N. 10th Street and N. Wayne Street
  • N. Courthouse Road and the ramp for Route 50 East
  • N. Courthouse Road and N. Barton Street

Long Bridge Park

  • Long Bridge Drive at Boundary Channel Drive
  • Long Bridge and S. 12th Street
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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

An Arlington couple is looking to change the dating game in the D.C. area with a new service, Quench, set to launch in July.

Co-founder Leslie Bozoian said Quench — which aims to match people through curated group meetups — responds to flaws she and her husband Eric identified in popular dating apps.

“Many of our friends who used dating apps would complain about going on a first date and arguing about things like politics, not knowing their date wasn’t aligned with them. Our desire is to put people in a room with potential partners who do align with their background and values,” she said.

Most of Quench’s events will take place in Arlington, and people across the D.C. area are welcome to participate. The service plans to host happy hour events at Clarendon watering holes O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub, Don Tito, Bar Bao and The Pinemoor.

The Bozoians have hosted several events connecting members of the community like this tubing event (courtesy of Leslie Bozoian)

The couple developed the idea while running a nonprofit called Free Association, which helped people make friends and build communities in the D.C. area. They soon noticed relationships were starting to form during these meetups.

Bozoian says several couples who met through Free Association are now married, inspiring them to try their hand at local matchmaking.

“Eric and I felt like we had found our calling: to offer people a unique and engaging way to meet and find their match,” she said.

The Bozoians, with the help of a psychologist, developed a simple four-step process to setting up singles. It starts with a ten-minute questionnaire about the person and what they are looking for in a partner.

“We ask members some background questions such as religious and political affiliation, education level as well as a handful of personality questions,” she said.

People will then be categorized into groups of 20 based on their answers and receive an Eventbrite invitation for a meetup. These gatherings have a host — who Bozoian said will keep the conversations flowing — and cost $20, not including food or drinks. After the hangout, participants can share their experiences in a survey.

For $1 a month, people can keep receiving invitations to social events.

Bozoian said this summer is the perfect time to start a service like this and help people find romantic connections.

“As Arlington heals from a year of isolation, we hope to offer single people a way to connect again, not through apps or screens but face-to-face social interaction, community and fun,” she said.

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(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) Arlington County will observe Juneteenth — which commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. — for the first time as an official county holiday this Friday and Saturday.

The holiday celebrates the day when the nation’s last enslaved people learned of their freedom following the Emancipation Proclamation. The Arlington County Board voted to make Juneteenth a county holiday in late April of this year.

Since the June 19 holiday falls on a Saturday this year, certain offices and services will be closed Friday as well. All Department of Motor Vehicles offices and the county courthouse will be closed Friday, while libraries and community centers will be closed both Friday and Saturday.

Parking meters will not be enforced on either Friday or Saturday.

Chief Race and Equity Officer for Arlington County Samia Byrd said she hopes residents take the time off to educate themselves about the day.

“I encourage people to take the time to participate in an event, activity or celebration that allows for reflection and learning more about Juneteenth and the history and events surrounding it,” she said.

In celebration, the Arlington Black Employees Council is hosting a Juneteenth Peace Rally today (Thursday) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Bozman Government Center stairs with speakers and performers. The event, following up on a similar event last year, will be live-streamed on the county’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Byrd also suggests taking the day to bolster organizations working toward racial equity and supporting Black-owned businesses.

“Support organizations that continue to advocate for justice and liberation or volunteer for an organization,” said Byrd. “Patronize Black businesses. Enjoy fellowship and celebrate freedoms we have while considering what more can be done.”

This time last year, the county made headlines for sending Black employees to powerwash Black Lives Matter chalk art in a local neighborhood on Juneteenth, something for which the county soon apologized.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced last year that he would make June 19 a state holiday, giving all state employees a paid day off. Meanwhile, Congress voted yesterday (Wednesday) to make June 19 a federal holiday, and President Joe Biden’s signature today will make Friday a day off for many federal workers.

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