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AFD investigates suspected arson at vacant West End house

The Alexandria Fire Department suspects arson after a fire at an unoccupied house used for police and fire department training in the West End, according to a recently released search warrant affidavit.

The fire at 5173 Seminary Road was reported by a passerby at around 3:45 a.m. on Wednesday, April 19, according to AFD. Firefighters arrived to find the boards used to secure the front windows of the vacant house were on fire, and the blaze spread into the interior of the building, according to the search warrant affidavit.

“The structure was vacant at the time of the incident and fire marshals were requested to investigate the origin and cause,” AFD senior public information officer Raytevia Evans told ALXnow. “No civilians or fire personnel were injured as a result of this incident. Overall damage is estimated at about $25,500, and estimated structural value saved is about $105,000.”

No arrests have been made in connection to this incident.

Evans continued, “”Units arrived and found fire coming from a window on the front of the structure and the fire was knocked down. Firefighters made entry to the structure to find more fire on the interior of the window and quickly extinguished it as well.  At the time of the incident, Code Administration was notified and APD was requested to check the other vacant structures in the area to ensure they were secure.”

Only one home on Fairbanks Avenue has been bought over the last 15 years by Alexandria Development Associates, LLC, which also bought homes along an adjacent street, Foster Avenue. Many of the properties have remained vacant for years and their land value continues to grow. The company was incorporated in 2008 in Hackensack, New Jersey, and their agent did not return ALXnow’s calls for comment.

Alexandria fire and police departments (APD) have also been using the Seminary Road house and four neighboring vacant houses for training since early this year, Evans said.

The homes used for training have red signs with big white letters that read “POLICE TRAINING IN PROGRESS.” They are located in the 5000 block of Fairbanks Avenue and 2600 block of Foster Avenue, and are used for simulations of emergencies in single family dwellings. Evans said that the property owners provided the department an opportunity to train on buildings before their eventual demolition.

“AFD’s Training Staff is coordinating additional training in the coming months,” Evans said. “For these particular properties, AFD is working closely with APD to coordinate separate sessions to ensure both agencies have an opportunity to use the properties for training.”

The vacant block of houses is located just north of the Mark Center Hilton, at the corner of Seminary Road and Fairbanks Avenue. It’s also a block from  The View by Goodwin Living retirement community (5000 Fairbanks Avenue).

According to land records:

  • In May 2011, Alexandria Development Associates bought 2627 Foster Avenue for $1.8 million from the original owners. The property was valued at $394,596 that same year, and it increased to $737,843 in 2023.
  • In May 2015, a family gifted the home at 5173 Seminary Road to the Bishop of Arlington, who sold it four days later to Alexandria Development Associates for $750,000. The property was valued at $443,363 that same year, and it increased to $616,981 in 2023.
  • In 2018, the company bought 5129 Fairbanks Avenue for $750,000. The property was valued at $515,809 that year, and it increased to $683,698 in 2023.
  • In 2022, Alexandria Development Associates bought the 5066 Franklin Avenue property for $1.2 million from the original owner. The property was assessed at $677,989 that same year, and it increased to $694,406 in 2023
  • In 2022, the company paid $2 million for 2641 Foster Avenue. The property was valued at $585,946, and it increased to $601,476 in 2023.

A representative for the company was not available to discuss the properties.

Image via Google Maps

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