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Fire Department recruits training on Feb. 14, 2020 (Staff photo by James Cullum)

The Alexandria Fire Department wants to replace a 42-year-old burn building used for training in Old Town.

AFD’s proposal to demolish the three-story, 4,600-square-foot building with a new four-story, 6,400-square-foot building goes before the Planning Commission on Tuesday, Oct. 3 and City Council on October 14.

According to the special use permit application:

The building does not have HVAC systems, interior lighting, domestic plumbing, nor a dedicated sprinkler system. Defined as a ‘prop’ by the State of Virginia Department of Fire Programs, the purpose of the structure is to replicate built conditions and spatial arrangements fire fighters encounter in real life, local, fire fighting scenarios. This structure is intended for use solely by supervised training exercises of professional fire fighters and AFD trainees and is closed to the general public…

The frequency of training and the level of disturbance (smoke, sound, visibility) on the surrounding area are not expected to increase in the new facility. The additional fourth story will not host live fire drills and the added height should not incur an increased line of sight to the surrounding area.

Most training sessions are for up to 10 trainees, however there are instances where they can include up to 100 firefighting personnel, according to a special use permit application

AFD reports there have been no complaints from residents or neighboring AlexRenew for more than 40 years.


Spilled paint could be seen in the waterways of Alexandria’s North Ridge neighborhood on Saturday.

That morning, the Alexandria Fire Department was alerted of a “white-cloudy substance in the waterways visible from the walking trail” near Monticello Park off Old Dominion Boulevard, according to an AFD press release.

Investigators determined the substance to be latex primer paint dumped in a storm drain. AFD canvassed the neighborhood for witnesses and determined the spill to be accidental.

“The area neighborhood was canvassed for witnesses and additional information,” the city said in a release. “The investigation determined the spill was accidental. Due to the nature of the substance, natural flushing of the waterway is the remediation approach. Water supply was not impacted.”

An investigation found the source of the paint to be a storm drain next to a home under renovation at the intersection of Crestwood Drive and Old Dominion Boulevard.

“An investigation done by the Hazardous Material team and the Fire Marshal’s Office (FMO) determined the source of the substance originated from a storm drain at the intersection of Crestwood Drive and Old Dominion Blvd,” the release said.

Paint was also dumped into Four Mile Run in Arlington in mid-July, although it ran down into Alexandria.

AFD encourages citizens to report environmental concerns by contacting Alex311 or reporting on the City’s website.


More than a dozen Alexandria Sheriff’s deputies and police officers played soccer in the blazing heat with about 30 Latino kids yesterday.

It was the last day of the Capital Youth Empowerment Program‘s second annual summer soccer camp at AlexRenew’s Limerick Field. Every Wednesday since June 26, kids who can’t get to the field are picked up by van. Before they play soccer, the kids are given an hour’s worth of the El Camino sexual health program before being let loose on the luscious soccer field.

“We talk about about not doing drugs, about better choices in the life,” said 16-year-old Max Martinez, a rising junior at Alexandria City High School. “It’s worth it. This field is better than the one at school.”

Fredy Martinez (no relation), a substance abuse counselor for Alexandria City Public Schools, is a facilitator/coach for the program.

“We deliver the message of avoiding teen pregnancy and to have a healthy lifestyle without compromising their futures,” he said.

Deputy Carlos Canas is a gang and intel investigator for the city, and said that gangs are active in the city.

“It’s never easy, especially when kids are not in school,” Canas said. “And we all know what happens in our city when it comes to gangs, but lately it’s been active. However, our job is to be out here like today and be proactive, try to show them that we’re here to help and to prevent them from even ever joining a gang.”

Program coordinator Isaac King said that summer camp recruitment will start earlier next year, and that the program has grown largely through word of mouth.

“We want kids to learn about decision making,” King said. “And we want to broker better relations with the police department, so that when the police see the kids on the street, outside of the program, they have relationships with the kids, because they were their coaches and played soccer with them.”

All students are eligible to participate in the program, but it’s geared toward Latino youth.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to engage with kids,” said Chief Deputy Shahram Fard. “If I came out here in uniform, they would not talk to me. But if I come in here and talk to them like this (in workout clothes and soccer cleats), they’ll talk.”


If you’ve got a kid who loves firefighting equipment, or you’re an adult that never grew out of that phase, Alexandria’s got a festival for you.

The Friendship Firehouse Festival on Saturday, Aug. 5, brings the Alexandria Fire Department’s equipment out for display alongside other community activities. Children will receive free fire helmets and can visit the City’s fire trucks.

According to a release:

Join us on the 100 block of South Alfred Street from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and celebrate Friendship’s 249th year. Learn about fire safety today and yesterday, and see Alexandria Fire Department equipment up close. There will be booths by the Alexandria Police Department and Sheriff’s Office, music performances, displays by community organizations, vendor booths, and food and beverage sales. Join in water play and please-touch artifact activities. Children will receive free toy Friendship firefighting helmets.

The Friendship Firehouse Museum is also reopening after being closed for interior painting.  The museum, which shows firefighting equipment throughout history, is scheduled to reopen on Saturday, July 15.

According to a release:

The Friendship Fire Company, established in 1774, was the first fire company in Alexandria. Friendship members were volunteers motivated by their concern for the property and well-being of the community. Today the Friendship Firehouse, built in 1855, is a museum open to the public. Buckets, hose, axes, other firefighting equipment, and Friendship’s recently conserved 1858 hose carriage, originally built by Robert Prettyman in Alexandria, are on view.

The museum is located at 107 South Alfred Street. Admission is $2 for adults and free for children under five or Alexandria residents.

The grand finale of Alexandria’s birthday celebration over the Potomac River, July 7, 2018 (staff photo by James Cullum)

With Independence Day around the corner, the Alexandria Fire Department sent out a reminder this week that fireworks are illegal.

That means sparklers, novelty items and fireworks are prohibited in Alexandria, even though they are legal in neighboring Arlington and Fairfax Counties. Using fireworks in the city is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and/or a $2,500 fine.

“The safety of the community is all our responsibility, so we encourage everyone to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday safely,” Alexandria Fire Chief Corey Smedley said. “Our Fire Marshal’s Office remains diligent and to protect people, businesses and property, they will enforce the City’s ban on all fireworks used within city limits.”

Last year, AFD put out a balcony fire that ignited after fireworks landed on balcony furniture, the department reported in a release.

Fireworks enthusiasts can still get their fill at Alexandria’s upcoming Birthday celebration on Saturday, July 8.

Fireworks violations may be reported by calling the Alexandria Police Department’s non-emergency number 703-746-4444.

(Left to right) Tony Washington, AFD’s deputy chief of health, safety and risk management, Dr. Asra Amin, AFD’s director of occupational health and wellness, firefighter Leslie Palucho, AFD Captain Warner Sherman and paramedic Jeff Woolsey outside Station 202 in Del Ray (staff photo by James Cullum)

Warner Sherman looked great, but his cholesterol was sky high.

Last year, the 62-year-old Alexandria Fire Department captain realized that he needed to take red meat out of his diet. The discovery might’ve just save his life, and was made after Sherman got blood work back from AFD’s health and wellness Station 202 at 212 E. Windsor Avenue in Del Ray. Since transitioning to chicken and turkey, Sherman’s lost 10 pounds and his cholesterol has been cut in half.

“A couple of months ago I had my bloodwork done, and they found my cholesterol was very high,” Sherman said. “Before my lab results, I was just eating steak and hamburgers. I love pork chops, but I had to cut them all out completely.”

For many AFD personnel, their only visit to the doctor is for mandatory work evaluations and physicals twice a year. Those visits allow AFD to track the healthy progress of 300 or so members, and additional offerings are now being included in the health screenings, like ultrasounds to detect cancer, blood testing and inoculations.

AFD started focusing on health and wellness in 2019, with the goal of curbing hypertension rates and improving the physical and mental health of these city employees who perform stressful jobs. But the pandemic in 2020 put the program on hold, as Station 202 became the epicenter for AFD’s covid tests and inoculations. Now with covid in the rearview mirror, the Department is picking up where it left off with its health and wellness program.

The most recently available data shows that there were 35 AFD personnel identified with stage 1 hypertension in 2020, and only 11 the following year, according to an AFD 2020-2021 annual report. The department also saw 13 employees with elevated hemoglobin in 2020, reduced to seven employees in 2021.

“The pandemic made us understand that we can do just about anything,” said Dr. Asra Amin, AFD’s director of occupational health and wellness. “It gave us time to reset, and now we’re back in full swing on how to focus on our members’ mental and physical fitness.”

Awareness is key to improving health outcomes, Amin said. The increased screenings ended up detecting a number of AFD employees with cancerous or precancerous tumors.

Amin said that AFD employees are working with her to develop workout, nutrition and health counseling plans.

“We’re also focusing on mental health,” she said. “We make referrals out to therapists and psychiatrists to help our members.”

Tony Washington, deputy chief of health, safety and risk management, said that every fire station is outfitted with gym and cardio equipment, and that AFD is now looking for personal trainers to work with employees at their respective stations and recruit school.

“You gotta remember back in the day, it was just a bunch of men, mainly men sitting around doing a manly job, and alcohol and smoking was accepted back then,” Washington said. “So there’s been incremental changes in the right direction. Now with the addition of our health and wellness specialists that we have, and the programs that we’re putting in place, we want to make sure that we keep the healthy firefighters healthy that come in, and that we increase the health of those that have been here.”

Alexandria City Hall lit up (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria City Manager Jim Parajon’s $884.3 million fiscal year 2024 budget was unanimously approved by City Council Wednesday night (May 4), backing citywide pay increases, a fully funded school system and collective bargaining agreements with the police and fire departments.

While the real estate tax rate remains unchanged at $1.11 per $100 of assessed value, city residents will have to pay $308.70 annually for the stormwater utility fee — an increase from $294 last year. The budget, which goes into effect July 1, is an increase of 5.4% over last year’s $839.2 million budget. About 47% of it ($398 million) is dedicated to paying the salaries of 2,765 city employees.

“You’re seeing some some very historically significant investments in public safety,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “This budget is the first that is informed by the results of two very large collective bargaining agreements.”

City Council Member Kirk McPike said that funding the collective bargaining agreements will help the city fight rising crime.

“Our public safety officers should feel confident that this council has their backs and will continue to invest in these important services,” McPike said. “Those in our city who are worried about the recent rise in certain types of crime (should) take heart that we hear and share your concerns. We’re putting financial resources into ensuring that our police department has the officers and equipment it needs to address this challenge.”

The budget provides:

  • A 7% market rate adjustment for sworn fire, medics and fire marshals
  • A 6% market rate adjustment for sworn police and Sheriff’s Deputies
  • A 2% increase in General Schedule and Sheriff’s Deputy pay scales
  • A $4.5% market rate adjustment for non-public safety personnel
  • Three new steps in the general pay scale, which is a 7% increase in salary potential
  • 25 SAFER grant-funded firefighters
  • Funding for Commonwealth’s Attorney staffing for more than $600,000 toward the APD body worn camera program, which launched in April

Parajon faced a $17 million budget shortfall when he started crafting the budget, but it was wiped away by unexpectedly high real estate assessments and $4.6 million in citywide efficiency reductions. He asked all departments for 1.5%-to-2% in budget reductions, with efficiencies like the outsourcing of city employee leave of absence reviews, benefits consulting, and city vehicle fleet repair.

“This adopted budget invests in helping our residents and businesses become more prosperous, safer, more engaged while investing in the infrastructure of our City, and investing in our future with climate action, education, housing and our youth,” Parajon said.

City Council Member Alyia Gaskins says that the budget sends a message to first responders and residents.

“I believe that we are saying to our staff in our fire and police departments that you matter to us,” she said. “We’re saying to our residents that we are committed to recruiting and retaining the best talent to keep you safe through fully funding the operating budget for our schools, and increasing investments in our summer youth employment program, as well as finding ways to waive summer fees for our lowest income residents at our rec centers. We are saying to our young people that you matter to us and we are committed to doing all we can to help you thrive.”

The budget also fully funds the Alexandria City Public Schools $258.7 million operating funds budget request, which will provide 2,600 ACPS employees with a 3% step increase. The request is a 4% increase ($9.9 million) over the FY 2023 budget.

“We have stretched the dollar and been able to keep our tax rate level,” Vice Mayor Amy Jackson said. “Close to a third of our budget is dedicated to our schools.”

Parajon’s budget also provides $2.4 billion in funding for the 2024-2033 Capital Improvement Program, of which $360,788,867 is dedicated for FY 2024.

Funded capital projects this next fiscal year include:

Wilson said he’s in favor of a shorter budget process. This year, the City Manager presented his budget proposal in February, followed by two-and-a-half months of City Council work sessions and meetings.

“I will note this was a shorter process,” Wilson said. “Nobody seemed to miss the extra weeks that were part of the process. So, it might give us a path to even further shorten it in the future.”


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


(Updated 2 p.m.) The Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) has put out a fire in a home on the 200 block of South Fairfax Street.

AFD spokesperson Raytevia Evans said Alexandria units are responding to a single-family residential building fire. The 200 block of South Fairfax Street and some of the surrounding streets have been closed.

Evans said that one firefighter has been transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. One male resident was evacuated at the time of the incident and was not injured.

AFD was dispatched to the fire at 12:27 p.m. The fire was declared extinguished an hour later, with units remaining on the scene to investigate the cause of the fire.

Evans said that, given the intense winds today, the fire department is taking additional precautions to ensure it doesn’t spread.

Fire reported at the 200 block of S. Fairfax Street (image via Google Maps)

H/t to Alan Henney
Image via Google Maps

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The Alexandria Fire Department responding to a blaze in the 100 block of E. Del Ray Avenue on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria’s City Council is looking to a federal grant to help relieve some of Alexandria Fire Department’s (AFD) chronic understaffing.

The city is applying for a grant for $6.8 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fund 25 additional firefighter positions for AFD.

The money would come from the Staffing for Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, which provides funding to fire departments and volunteer firefighter organizations struggling to meet industry minimum standards and to maintain 24-hour staffing.

“The goal of this grant application is to fund 25 new firefighter positions in the AFD,” a memo from Fire Chief Corey Smedley said. “As part of the City’s collective bargaining agreement, the department is transitioning from a 56 to 50-hour work week. Hiring up to 25 new firefighters will provide staffing relief and reduce the need for overtime with the goal of safer working conditions.”

Smedley said AFD previously used SAFER grant funding to reach four-person staffing on fire engines and ladder trucks.

“A SAFER grant will pay for the salary and benefits of the positions for the first three years, then requires the locality to fully fund the positions in the fourth year,” Smedley wrote.


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