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The Alexandria Fire Department confirmed that fire alarms in a high-rise West End apartment building didn’t go off during a two-alarm blaze on Saturday and residents say they were notified to evacuate by the property manager via text message.

Residents were notified of a fire on the fourth floor of the Pavilion On The Park building at 5340 Holmes Run Parkway at around 10 a.m., which was the same time that the Alexandria Fire Department was dispatched to the scene.

“The fire alarm system did not function at the time of the incident,” AFD confirmed to ALXnow. “Upon further investigation, fire marshals determined that the system had been shut off by the main power switch. The switch was turned back on and the alarm system reset and restored to service. Fire marshals instructed management to have the alarm system checked to ensure there are no faults or malfunctions.”

Property manager Rosewood Management could not be reached for comment.

The fire started at around 10 a.m. in a closet in unit 414, an empty three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment that sold last month. Flames and smoke quickly spread to the fifth and sixth floors. Residents tried to activate a number of fire alarm stations in the building, but none of them worked, according to multiple residents.

“It’s incredible,” said one resident. “The fire alarm didn’t go off and we got a text from the building telling us to evacuate.”

The fire was deemed accidental in nature, with “probable cause determined to be spontaneous ignition from discarded rags and painting materials,” according to AFD.

One person was injured due to a “physical hazard” at the scene and was treated at the hospital for a non-life threatening injury, according to AFD. It is not clear the exact number of affected residents being relocated, and Rosewood Management is not assisting with their relocation, according to AFD.

“This was a condominium, so residents are making their own relocation arrangements as needed,” AFD said.

After the blaze, unit 414 was condemned, and apartments 114, 214, and 314 (directly below unit 414) were deemed uninhabitable due to water damage. Rosewood later texted residents at around 7 p.m. that it would be testing the fire alarm and there was no need to evacuate.

The Fairfax County Fire Department assisted AFD in extinguishing the blaze.

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Four people were displaced in a fire in the 3700 block of Mark Drive on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Four people were displaced by an Arlandria house fire that started with a space heater.

The fire occurred at around midnight (Saturday morning) in a row house in the 3700 block of Mark Drive, according to the Alexandria Fire Department (AFD).

AFD said the incident was accidental; caused by a space heater that came into contact with combustibles.

No one was injured. Four people have been displaced and received assistance from Red Cross for alternate lodging.

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There were no injuries after a small fire in the vent shaft of an apartment building in the Fairlington neighborhood on Tuesday, September 20.

The Alexandria Fire Department was dispatched to the Waypoint apartment building at 2451 Menokin Drive at around 10 a.m. It took just over an hour for AFD to leave the scene.

“Units responded to the location finding a small fire in the vent shaft and quickly extinguishing the fire,” Alexandria Fire Department Senior Public Information Officer  Raytevia Evans said. “At the time units arrived, the building was already being evacuated.”

The apartment building is next door to Fairlington Presbyterian Church and near the intersection of Menokin Drive and King Street.

Map via Google Maps

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Fireworks fans should get ready for quite a treat for the senses, as Alexandria’s annual birthday celebration is back along the waterfront on Saturday, July 9.

The free event, which will be held from 6 to 9:45 p.m., will commemorate the city’s 273rd birthday. The evening will include a performance by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra and a grand finale fireworks display at 9:30 p.m.

The celebration was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, and scaled back last year.

Visit Alexandria recommends these vantage points to see the best fireworks:

Fireworks are otherwise illegal in Alexandria

The Alexandria Fire Department is also reminding residents that it’s illegal to use fireworks within the city limits.

“The Alexandria Fire Department is reminding those who visit, live and work in the City of Alexandria that it’s illegal to possess, sell, store, or use any fireworks within the city limits – including sparklers, novelty items, or any fireworks that can be otherwise legally purchased in neighboring jurisdictions,” AHD said in a release.

Fireworks violations are a misdemeanor and punishable by a $2,500 fine and jail time.

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

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Image courtesy Will Mahoney (@HeelWillMahoney)

Multiple persons of interest have been identified after an attempted break-in and arson at a 7-Eleven store in the West End.

At around 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 3, four-to-five males walked into the 7-Eleven at 2 S. Jordan Street and “using incendiary devices committed the offense of arson,” according to a police search warrant affidavit.

No arrests have yet been made.

The fire may have been started as a “possible precursor to the offenses of grand larceny and burglary, based on similar cases throughout the District of Columbia metropolitan area,” police said in the warrant.

As previously reported, officials are investigating similar fires at 7-Eleven stores in the region. The most recent was a fire reported early New Year’s Day in Forestville.

Significant damage was made to the store, and police are actively investigating the incident with the Fire Mashall’s Office.

“Investigators recovered evidence from the incident and have submitted the evidence for analysis,” Alexandria Fire Department Raytevia Evans told ALXnow. “Investigators have identified several persons of interest who may have been involved.”

Images courtesy Will Mahoney (@HeelWillMahoney)

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S. Jordan Street 7-Eleven fire (Image courtesy Will Mahoney / @HeelWillMahoney)

A possible firebombing at a convenience store is under investigation.

Alexandria officials have not commented officially yet, but according to radio reports, investigators are looking for four to five men who threw Molotov cocktails into the 7-Eleven on S. Jordan Street at Duke Street around 4:30 p.m. on Monday.

The fire caused significant fire and smoke damage to the store. Fire officials did say there were no injuries reported. Firefighters spent several hours on scene after extinguishing the blaze, which had spread into the ceiling.

Fire investigators remained at the store well into the evening.

Officials have been investigating similar fires at 7-Eleven stores in the D.C. area, mostly in Prince George’s County, during the past few months. The most recent was a fire reported early New Year’s Day in Forestville.

https://twitter.com/HeelWillMahoney/status/1478143843086315520

Images courtesy Will Mahoney (@HeelWillMahoney)

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After concern that his officers were working too much overtime, Alexandria Fire Chief Corey Smedley temporarily put an engine out of service on Sunday night (Dec. 19).

The move was enough to prompt the International Association of Firefighters’ Local 2141 to put out a public safety alert on social media.

Smedley said that fire apparatus go out of service all the time for a number of issues, including training, maintenance, and community outreach events. Still, he said, staff have continued to express concern over working mandatory overtime, and says it is impacting their lives, from “child care issues to mental exhaustion.”

“I was also concerned about some who were on shift and approaching maximum consecutive work hours,” Smedley told ALXnow. “Considering all of these factors and the high rate of those working mandatory overtime, the Fire Department initiated a portion of its continuity of operations plan by placing Engine 205 out of service at 7 p.m. on December 19 to relieve some of the pressure on our workforce.”

The unions tweeted that such reductions are now common occurrences, and that other closures have been made in recent months.

AFD is currently understaffed by 23%, with 281 first responders working in a department that needs 347 to be fully staffed. Just last week, the union stated that AFD’s staffing issues put lives and property at risk in a Dec. 4 fire in Crystal City.

The engine returned to service the following day.

“Based on our data, this was the least impactful timeframe of the day for call volume,” Smedley said. “We ensured advanced medical service was covered across the city by moving the engine’s paramedic to Truck 205 and informing our mutual aid partners of the temporary change in operations.”

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Understaffing within the Alexandria Fire Department put people and buildings at risk during a fire at Crystal City’s restaurant row on 23rd Street earlier this month, according to two unions representing more than 500 Alexandria and Arlington firefighters, medics and fire marshals.

In a sharply worded press release on Friday, Dec. 10, officials from the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2141 and IAFF Local 2800 wrote that AFD’s inability to fully staff their department led to “multiple close calls” at a fire on Saturday, Dec. 4, in the 500 block of 23rd Street. No one was injured in the blaze, which caused $1.8 million in damages.

“The City’s been playing with fire for awhile now” said Josh Turner, President of Local 2141. “It’s an unnecessary game of Russian roulette putting lives at risk, solely due to the City’s inability to recruit and retain employees for our department.”

What resulted, the unions said, was a call for service where firefighters were short staffed, and Alexandria did not send both and Engine Company (which extinguishes fires) and Rescue Company (removes obstructions and rescues victims) to the scene — only a Rescue Company. The unions reported that when a Rescue Company in South Arlington was responding to another call, Arlington and Alexandria had to follow a “short staffing” procedure that brought only a single AFD engine to the fire.

A Rescue Company from Fairfax County instead had to to report to the scene.

“The initial call should have had a minimum 12 firefighters dispatched for tasks like putting up ladders, forcible entry and search and rescue. Instead there were only 8 dispatched,” said Brian Lynch, President of IAFF Local 2800, representing uniformed members of the Arlington County Fire Department. “That is the equivalent of fielding a football team with only a portion of your offensive line. The job got done this time, but we cannot be putting families, businesses and firefighters at this kind of risk.”

Lynch continued, “Firefighters conducting fire attack and searching the second floor for victims encountered extreme and nearly deadly fire behavior, which forced them to rapidly evacuate. Eventually the second floor collapsed. Luckily, firefighters on the scene from other functions like EMS or standing by to rescue trapped firefighters were able to help with some fire operations. But we should not be relying on that, especially for a call like this – both businesses were occupied at the start of the fire, thankfully there were not multiple patients, or firefighters that could not rescue themselves. This could have ended very badly.”

Alexandria’s Rescue Company has been reportedly been understaffed since August 12.

Alexandria Fire Chief Corey Smedley says he’s having constant conversations with local union groups, and says he has spoken with the incoming City Manager Jim Parajon about hiring additional staff and employee compensation.

“We’re in a challenging space right now.,” Smedley said. “We need more resources, and we’re working toward that. But the community will get responded to and they will have the appropriate people there to mitigate their emergency. At the same time, I need to make sure we have the appropriate staffing for first responders so that they can also have the confidence that they’re going to be taken care of in those very risky situations.”

Smedley also said he’s been concerned with the number of hours his people are working, and recently reduced the maximum number of consecutive hours they are allowed to work.

“Some of them were working up to 72 hours straight, and that was not safe,” Smedley said. “I cannot continue and I did not continue to allow them to put themselves and for us to allow them to put themselves into harm’s way.”

There are now 281 first responders within AFD, Smedley said, and the the department needs 347 to be fully staffed. As it stands, there are 27 recruits in the Fire Academy, and they are scheduled to graduate in the first quarter of next year. Smedley said he hoped to hire 30 more recruits to get additional relief.

Smedley will soon travel to Arlington, Texas, where Parajon is the outgoing assistant city manager. There, he says, he will talk to the fire chief about lessons learned and best practices to get things moving forward in Alexandria.

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An overloaded electrical outlet is likely the cause behind last month’s three-alarm fire in a Del Ray duplex, the Alexandria Fire Department announced Wednesday.

Two adults and a child were displaced by the blaze, which occurred at around 6 p.m. on Friday, November 19. A cat is still missing, according to APD.

“AFD’s Fire Marshal’s Office conducted an origin and cause investigation and determined that the fire was accidental and originated on the first floor of one of the two units in the residential structure,” AFD said in a release. “Due to extensive fire damage, an exact source of ignition was difficult to determine; however, the probable cause of the fire is attributed to an overloaded electrical outlet where several appliances were connected.”

The duplex has been condemned, and damages are estimated at $1.4 million.

The Del Ray Citizens Association launched a GoFundMe for the residents and raised nearly $40,000.

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A fire destroyed the rear of two homes in the 100 block of E. Del Ray Avenue on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. (staff photo by James Cullum)

On Friday, a three-alarm fire ravaged a duplex in Del Ray and displaced two families. The next morning, neighbors started to mount an effort to help them recover.

Within two days, the Del Ray Citizens Association set up a GoFundMe that has raised $29,464 of a $30,000 total goal to help the families start putting their lives back together. The Del Ray Citizens Association said on the GoFundMe page that the families lost nearly everything they owned in the fire.

“Some of you may be aware, but the families lost everything,” the group said. “They ran out of their homes with only the clothes they were wearing. The money you’ve donated is helping them rebuild their lives and come as close to ‘normal’ as possible — we all know the importance of getting back to normal after these past few years. Toiletries, socks, underwear, shoes, diapers, toys for the baby, all the basics that were needed immediately. Soon to come will be furniture, kitchen basics, blankets, rent deposit, bedding, home goods.”

The Del Ray Citizens Association said that one of the families has been rehoused locally, while the other has moved in with family elsewhere in Northern Virginia.

Consignment shop Bellies & Babies (1913 Mt Vernon Avenue) has also been running a collection for household items for the families, asking for gift cards to Target and Amazon for the family, along with food. In terms of clothing and other items for the families, the consignment shop said it’s looking to collect:

  • Toys and books
  • Size 5 diapers
  • Size 6 shoes
  • Boy’s clothing
  • Sippy cups and blankets
  • Ladies’ clothing, size small, with 7.5-size shoes
  • Mens’ clothing, size large

Donations can be dropped off at Bellies & Babies with bags labelled “FIRE”.

“Please use Bellies & Babies as your drop-off point label any bag that is for this cause ‘FIRE’ and we will get it directly to the family,” the consignment shop said. “Thank you again for this community that is so generous and kind for everything you have been doing for all of our neighbors. I have always believed it takes a village and I’m happy to be a part of this one.”

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