Post Content
Fire on Wheeler Avenue (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) said a massive fire earlier this month on Wheeler Lane caused an estimated $5 million in damages.

In a release, AFD said the fire was “accidental and electrical in nature”. The fire caused $1.5 million in structural damage with an estimated $3.5 million in damage to the contents of the businesses in those buildings.

The fire, which started around 9 p.m. on Jan. 2, was a three-alarm fire that wound up bringing in over 100 firefighters from both Alexandria and surrounding jurisdictions. One firefighter sustained minor injuries.

Jeffrey’s Catering, one of the providers to Alexandria’s Meals on Wheels program, was one of the businesses affected. Despite concerns that the fire might impact Meals on Wheels’ ability to provide food for local seniors, the release said the owners of Jeffrey’s Catering were able to continue services using an alternative location.

The building has since been condemned due to fire and structural damage.

The release is below:

Read More

2 Comment
Fire on Wheeler Avenue (staff photo by James Cullum)

An inferno at a commercial warehouse on 4407 Wheeler Avenue Tuesday night could have a ripple effect on local seniors.

The fire, which was reported at 9:20 p.m., raged for hours and spread across three buildings. Over 1000 firefighters were called in from multiple jurisdictions and one firefighter sustained minor injuries.

The Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) said in a release that one of the businesses affected is Jeffrey’s Catering, which provides a significant amount of food for the local Meals on Wheels program.

According to AFD:

Among the affected is Jeffery’s Catering, a key provider for the “Meals on Wheels” program. The Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) and Senior Services of Alexandria are working together to assure continued delivery of meals to participating residents. For the most current information or to request assistance, please direct inquiries to the Division of Aging and Adult Services at 703-746-5999.

In addition, Alexandria Health Department (AHD) is working with affected food vendors to ensure that all temporary and repaired workspaces are permitted and can serve food safely as soon as possible.

AFD said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

8 Comments

(Updated 12:15 a.m.) A three-alarm fire sent plumes of smoke up into the skies above Wheeler Avenue earlier this evening.

The 4000-4400 blocks of the street burned earlier this evening, but by 11 p.m. the fire had been contained.

The Alexandria Fire Department said the fire is in a commercial building on the 4400 block of Wheeler Avenue, the site of several warehouses and industrial businesses.

Scanner traffic indicated that the fire had spread across 4413, 4411, and 4407 Wheeler Avenue.

James Cullum and Vernon Miles contributed to this story

9 Comments
Alexandria Fire Chief Corey Smedley (center) with Alexandria Fire Department first responders (via AFD/Facebook)

(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) With emergency medical incidents taking up nearly 75% of calls for service, the Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) is planning to redeploy some of its resources, Fire Chief Corey Smedley tells ALXnow.

Smedley’s AFD Forward plan is still being ironed out, but the gist is that by the first quarter of 2024 the department’s fire engines will get reduced from nine to seven and increasing smaller Emergency Medical transport units staffed by firefighters/emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

“As a firefighter and as manager based on the needs of the community, we will put you in the most appropriate place to serve the community,” Smedley said. “Sometimes that will be on a fire truck, sometimes that will be on an emergency medical unit. It just varies based on the needs and resources we have to accommodate those needs.”

AFD’s calls for service saw 27,435 incidents in 2022. About 72% of those incidents were medical and rescue-related, while just 15% were fire alarm and fire-related.

Fire Chief Corey Smedley at Alexandria’s birthday celebration at Oronoco Bay Park, July 10, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Smedley wants to take away fire engines from Station 204 (900 Second Street) in Old Town North and Station 205 (1210 Cameron Street) in Rosemont. Just where the new EMS units and staff will be redeployed has not been determined, he said.

“What’s needed for the community, mainly, is our core functions,” Smedley said. “AFD Forward is a short and mid-term solution that we have the capability within our own purview to adjust accordingly to better serve our community, to help our workforce and in their working conditions. And, within our fiscal capabilities, manage our mission.”

Smedley said that no staff will be let go from the department, just redistributed, and that response times to incidents should not change.

“It also means my fuel costs will hopefully go down, my maintenance costs for heavy apparatus, a large apparatus will go down,” Smedley said. “The hope also is that we better serve our community and we are less reliant on mutual aid, we have better reliability of our own resources and we have to go to less hours for our workforce as in the collective bargaining agreement, and we are working very diligently to get there.”

Smedley was promoted to fire chief in 2020, after spending five years as the department’s deputy fire chief of emergency management. He implemented a restructuring in 2021, shifting AFD responsibilities and resources to stations around the city.

The move isn’t popular with the AFD union.

“Local 2141 does not support ANY cuts in the services our members provide to the Alexandria community,” said AFD Captain Josh Turner, president of IAFF Local 2141, the union representing the city’s firefighters, medics and fire marshals, in a text to ALXnow. “We as a union will proactively reach out to City and Department management to find a solution that will protect the interests of the community we serve. Cutting emergency services is never something we will support.”

So far, AFD Forward has been sent to the city manager’s office and AFD staff, the union and members of City Council, Smedley said.

Alexandria Fire Department call volume (via AFD)

The plan includes:

  • Adding two additional life support transit units Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. to handle peak call volume
  • Adding rapid response paramedics
  • Promoting four new captains for the uniform watch office and 911 center, to help direct adequate resources to service calls

City Manager Jim Parajon should also expect a request for more AFD resources in next year’s budget, Smedley said.

“I’m going to ask for more,” he said. “The FY ’25 budget process is coming. I’ve already told the city manager’s office I’m going to be asking for more and more so that we can manage our mission.”

11 Comments
The Alexandria City High School marquee (staff photo by James Cullum)

First days back at school are always bumpy, but Alexandria City High School had a particularly rough start with an evacuation first thing in the morning.

Fortunately, the evacuation didn’t last long, but students and staff were outside of the building for around 25 minutes on their first day.

According to a message from Principal Alexander Duncan:

I want to inform you that the fire alarm at Alexandria City High School (ACHS) King Street Campus sounded at 9:40 a.m. today, resulting in students and staff evacuating the building for about 25 minutes. The evacuation was conducted in an orderly and safe manner, and the school resumed normal operations, with students and staff beginning to re-enter the building at 10:05 a.m.

The Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) responded to the alarm immediately and, once the AFD determined that it was safe for students and staff to return to the building, they provided the all clear to school administrators. The normal school schedule is in place.

In other news, both Alexandria City High School leadership and Alexandria City Public Schools leadership at large have said a major goal this year is combatting absenteeism and keeping students in their seats at school — particularly after issues in recent years at the nearby Bradlee Shopping Center.

0 Comments
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.

8 Comments

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

0 Comments

(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

2 Comment

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.

15 Comments
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.

2 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list