Fire and Rescue History
In 1949, by action of the County Board of Supervisors, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department was born. The first career firefighters were hired and assigned to various volunteer departments. By 1985, there were over 1,000 career firefighters, thus making the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department the largest fire department in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of the best in the nation. Today, we continue the traditions of our past with a commitment to service excellence and a vision to continuously strive to meet the changing needs of our citizens and visitors to Fairfax County.
1912 - First mention of the Fire Department in county records.
1932 - Volunteer Station 1 (McLean) purchased the first Ambulance - a 1926 LaSalle.
1940s - World War II - Chief John Carper of the McLean Volunteer Fire Department was hired by Fairfax County to be the first Fire Chief. His primary role was to deal with the War Materials Board so that the 11 volunteer fire departments could get replacement tires, gasoline and other rationed items.
1949 - On May 4, 1949, the Board of Supervisors approved the hiring of firefighters for each of the volunteer stations. In addition, they approved the installation of a central fire alarm system so Police dispatchers "would dispatch the engines from the department or departments nearest the fire and this would eliminate a great deal of confusion".
On July 1, 1949, the first 10 career firefighters were hired at an annual salary of $2,500.00. The first to be hired was Samuel Redmond who was issued badge #1 and assigned to Station 1 (McLean). Career firefighters were called "paid men" and served primarily as day time apparatus drivers. The various chiefs of the volunteer departments would choose the personnel who would be hired by the County and ultimately work for their departments. This practice would continue for many years. As members of their respective volunteer departments these firefighters responded to "after hours" calls from their homes.
1950s - The housing boom which followed World War II significantly impacted Fairfax County with an abundance of new bedroom communities. These communities responded to their local fire and emergency medical needs by organizing new volunteer departments. The original group of volunteer stations would require any new fire station to be sponsored by an existing company, i.e., Companies 1 (McLean) and 4 (Herndon) sponsored Station 12 (Great Falls); Company 3 (Fairfax City) sponsored Station 14 (Burke), Station 16 (Clifton), and Station 17 (Centreville); Company 4 (Herndon) sponsored Station 15 (Chantilly) and Station 21 (Fair Oaks); Company 5 (Franconia) sponsored Station 22 (Springfield); Company 6 (Falls Church) sponsored Station 13 (Dunn Loring).
1953 - The Communications Division was established and the first Rescue Squad was placed in service at Station 11 (Penn Daw).
1954 - The Fire Marshal's Office was established.
1963 -The Board of Supervisors appointed Willis Burton to the position of Fire Services Administrator. While not officially titled "Fire Chief," as this title was used solely by the volunteer departments, he became the second Board-appointed person to head our department.
The Fire Services Administrator appointed the first Training Officer and the 5th Recruit Training School was started. This was the first formal school as the previous four recruit schools were refresher training classes for firefighters already employed.
The first county-owned piece of fire apparatus was purchased. This was an 85-foot straight ladder truck manufactured by Maxim Fire Apparatus and was assigned to Station 11 (Penn Daw). After many years of service in an active and finally a reserve status, it was removed from service. After being completely restored by off-duty firefighters it now serves as the department's historical piece of equipment.
1965 - The department completed construction and occupied its first Training Center which included: an administrative building for two classrooms, offices, and a small kitchen; two cinder block and concrete (residential and high rise) structures for fire training simulations; multiple open pits for simulation of fuel fires; roadways for driver training; open fields for fire and emergency medical training evolutions; and a small garage for housing training apparatus and equipment.
1966 - The county's first 100-foot aerial (a tiller ladder truck) was placed in service at Station 8 (Annandale).
The Technical Repair and Prevention Maintenance Division was established to facilitate the need for repairing specialized fire apparatus, pumps and firefighting equipment.
1968 - January 10, 1968 - Fairfax County suffered a tragic loss with the death of Firefighter Earl Warren Kane. Firefighter Kane was the first line-of-duty death in the department's short history. As a member of the department's Dive Team, he and other department divers were performing underwater searches for a child that had fallen through the ice covered Lake Anne, which is located in the Reston area of the county. When he became separated from his diving partner and his safety line, the thick ice covering the water prevented him from surfacing when he ran into trouble with his air supply.
April - Riots in Washington, D.C., quickly overwhelmed the District of Columbia Fire Department. Units from Fairfax County, as well as from other surrounding counties, implemented task forces and responded into the District of Columbia to assist the D.C. Fire Department in controlling the hundreds of arson-related fires.
December - The volunteer station "turn over" trend began with Company 11 turning over their facility and real assets to Fairfax County to operate and maintain.
1969 - October - Volunteer Station 18 (Jefferson) was turned over to Fairfax County.
November - Volunteer Station 16 (Clifton) was turned over to Fairfax County.
1970 - July - The Field Incident Reporting Evaluation System (FIRES) was implemented. Fairfax County became the first major fire service in the nation to adopt this system based on the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 901.
December - Fire Station 24 (Woodlawn) opened. This was Fairfax County's first fully funded station.
1971 - February - Fire Station 15 (Chantilly) was turned over to Fairfax County to operate and maintain.
The Board of Supervisors appointed Chief George Alexander to become the department's third Fire Chief.
A Fire Station Bond Referendum was passed. The bond plan was originally started in 1970 by Fire Administrator Burton using a 1965 Fire Commission study as basis for future station locations. The referendum established funding to:
The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Division was established.
- Pay off Station 25 (Reston), saving General Fund money
- Build Station 10 (Bailey's Crossroads) -- A building/lease agreement with volunteers
- Build Station 26 (Edsall Road)
- Build Station 27 (West Springfield)
- Build Station 28 (Seven Corners)
- Build Station 29 (Tysons Corner)
- Build Station 30 (Merrifield)
- Build Station 20 (Gunston) [a new station to replace their old one which was in extremely poor condition].
- Build additional classrooms at the Training Center
1972 - The position of Supervisor of Field Forces was created to better coordinate all operational activities.
April - Fire Station 25 (Reston) opened.
June - Tropical Storm Agnes hits Fairfax County. The Occoquan pumping station which supplied water into most of Fairfax County was knocked out. There was major flooding and erosion at the Lake Barcroft dam and most small streams overran their banks, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of citizens from their homes.
1973 - March - A Fairfax County police officer witnessed and radioed the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) that a high rise building (Skyline Towers) located in Bailey's Crossroads had collapsed. Units from Fairfax County, Arlington County and the City of Alexandria responded. It would take weeks to finally recover the last body. This structural collapse was caused by the early removal of concrete forms supporting the floors and caused the deaths of 14 workers and injured 34 others.
1974 -January - Volunteer Station 20 (Gunston) was turned over to Fairfax County to operate and maintain.
November - Fire Station 26 (Edsall Road) opened.
1974 to 1975 - The Northern Virginia Regional Response Agreement (NOVA) went into effect. Harmony with three municipalities (Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria) resulted in the "closest unit response" concept regardless of boundaries. Several planned stations were eliminated due to response realignments, i.e., Alexandria Stations 9 and 11 and Fairfax County future station locations in Lincolnia and Rose Hill. Personnel work shifts, training and incident scene operations were coordinated among the municipalities to be similar.
1976 - The department implemented the first EMS Plan for advanced life support or "Medic" units. The plan called for 10 Medic units to be located through out the county and provided for a 10 minute response coverage. Training of personnel was set at the Cardiac Care Technician (CCT) certification level based on Commonwealth of Virginia standards. Each Medic unit would be staffed with three CCTs and a rank structure was created for Medic Lieutenant, Medic Sergeant and Medic Technician.
January - Fire Station 27 (West Springfield) opened.
May - New Fire Station 20 (Gunston) opened.
1977 - January - Fire Station 4 (Herndon) was turned over to Fairfax County. Fire Station 28 (Seven Corners) opened.
May - Medic 25 (Reston) placed in service.
1978 - Fire Station 3 (Fairfax City) withdrew from the county's fire and rescue system and implemented their own fire and rescue service. They hired their own personnel, began construction on a second city station (Station 33) and implemented their own dispatching system. Because of this, Fairfax County restructured plans for stations located outside the city limits. This included Stations 30 (Merrifield), 32 (Fairview) and 34 (Oakton).
January - Medics 1 (McLean) and 9 (Mount Vernon) were placed in service.
February - Medic 8 (Annandale) placed in service.
July - Medic 3 (Fairfax City) placed in service.
December - Station 29 (Tysons Corner) opened and Medic 2 (Vienna) placed in service.
1979 - April - The Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce held its first Public Safety Valor Awards program. This was to become an annual event and included the county's Police Department, Fire and Rescue Department, and Sheriff's Office.
The Public Information Office (PIO) was established.
May - Rescue Squad 21 (Fair Oaks) and Medic 19 (Lorton) were placed in service.
July - Fire Station 31 (Fox Mill) opened and Medic 19 placed in service.
December - Fire Station 30 opened.
1980 - January - Truck 13 (Dunn Loring) was relocated to Station 30 (Merrifield).
October - Medic 10 (Bailey's Crossroads) was placed in service.
1981 - January - Fire Station 32 (Fairview) opened. Medic 3 (Fairfax City) moved to Station 33 (Fairfax City) and Medic 32 (Fairview) was placed in service.
October - Medic 5 (Franconia) was placed in service.
1982 - The Cresap, McCormick and Paget consultant study was published. Approval by the Board of Supervisors established:
The first issue of the department's magazine, Line Copy, was published.
- 21 Battalion Fire Chiefs (7 per Shift);
- 3 Assistant Fire Chiefs for Operations;
- 4 Deputy Fire Chiefs (Support Services, Administration, Operations, and Prevention);
- The old title of "Director" was discontinued and replaced with the title "Fire Chief" as the head of the department;
- New Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) were begun and ultimately finished in 1985;
- A new Volunteer Fire Commission would serve in an advisory capacity only with staff liaison;
- A 24-hour shift working schedule for station personnel;
- A minimum staffing requirement for units.
May - Medic 17 (Centreville) was placed in service.
1983 - The Board of Supervisors appointed Chief Warren E. Isman as the departments fourth Fire Chief.
March - Station 34 (Oakton) opened.
March 12, 1983, the department went to a 24 hour shift.
1984 - December - Relocated Station 21 (the old name of "Navy Vale" was replaced with "Fair Oaks") opened.
The number of battalions was reduced from six to five and the actual number of Battalion Chiefs per shift was reduced from seven to six. The remaining Battalion Chiefs were reassigned to Training, Technical Services and Fire Chief's Aide.
1985 - Construction on Station 35 (Pohick) was begun with funding from a second bond series.
Smoke detectors were required in all residential buildings.
May - Cave-In Units 14 (Burke) and 25 (Reston) were placed in service. [The unit at Station 25 (Reston) was ultimately moved to Station 21 (Fair Oaks).]
1986 - July - Lorton Prison burns. The prison complex housed prisoners from the District of Columbia but was located within Fairfax County. Thirteen buildings were on fire at once; prisoners rioted; 29 inmates, 9 guards and 6 firefighters were injured. One inmate later died.
May - Fire Station 35 (Pohick) opened.
August - Truck 15 (Chantilly) was relocated to Station 21 (Fair Oaks).
September - Ambulance 28 (Seven Corners) was placed in service.
1987 - The Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system was placed in service in the new Public Safety Communications Center (PSCC). The center was supervised by the Police Department, however the Fire Department had one Uniformed Fire Officer (UFO) per shift serving as an advisor for fire and emergency medical incidents.
June - Singleton's Grove - A gasoline transmission line was broken by a contractor, sending thousands of gallons of raw gasoline onto residential homes and flowing to a depth of 4-6 inches down residential streets.
1988 - February - Medic 4 (Herndon) placed in service.
March - The relocated Station 1 (McLean) opened.
July - Fire Station 36 (Frying Pan) opened.
September - Truck 28 (Seven Corners) moved to Station 30 (Merrifield) and Truck 30 (Merrifield) moved to Station 36 (Frying Pan).
November - Medic 11 (Penn Daw) was placed in service.
December - The department, at the request of the federal government, sent our Urban Search and Rescue team to Soviet Armenia following an earthquake in that country. This was the first international deployment of our Urban Search and Rescue team under an agreement with the United States Agency for International Development and the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA).
1989 - The EMS supervisor's position was upgraded to an Assistant Chief's level.
March - Medic 49 (a day time Medic unit for training and transport purposes) is placed in service.
April - Medic 18 (Jefferson) was placed in service.
July - Medic 22 (Springfield) was placed in service.
August - Relocated Station 15 (Chantilly) opened. Engine 38 (West Centreville) was placed in service at Station 17 (Centreville), pending completion of construction of Station 38 (West Centreville). Truck 21 (Fair Oaks) was moved to Station 15 (Chantilly).
September - At the request of the fire chief in North Charleston, South Carolina, the department sent a team of firefighters to that area to assist in recovery efforts following Hurricane Hugo. Medic 15 (Chantilly) was placed in service.
November - The Fire Prevention Division established the first canine accelerant detection program in the metropolitan area. The first canine for this program was a black labrador retriever named "Ebby" who could detect 17 different accelerants. She cost the department $4,000 initially and about $700 annually.
1990 - Medic 26 (Edsall Road) was placed in service. A trailer to house Station 38 (West Centreville) staff was opened at Station 17 (Centreville). Stations 3 and 33 (City of Fairfax) were added back into County responses.
February - Medic 29 (Tyson's Corner) was placed in service.
The Fire Prevention Code adopted a major revision to provide special smoke detectors for the deaf and hearing-impaired.
The Research and Planning Section was dissolved with functions and staff reassigned to other areas.
July - The department's Urban Search and Rescue Team was deployed by the federal government's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) to the Philippines following an earthquake in that country.
September - There was a report of an oil product in a Fairfax County creek down from the Fairfax City Tank Farm. Approximately seven feet of oil was later discovered in a private water well located at the County line. One of the tank farm companies was later found to be responsible for the spill which required them to purchase 91 residential homes in the Mantua subdivision located next to the tank farm. A special task force within the department continues to monitor this site.
1991 - August - Fire Chief Warren Isman died of a heart attack while on vacation and Chief Deputy Glenn A. Gaines was appointed acting Fire Chief.
Medics 21 (Fair Oaks) and 27 (West Springfield) went in service.
The temporary facility for Station 16 (Clifton) opened and remodeling of the existing station commenced.
1992 - The Board of Supervisors appointed Chief Glenn A. Gaines as the department's fifth Fire Chief.
June - All Fire and Rescue Department headquarters staff relocate to the Massey Building, a 12-story structure, formerly the County Government Center. This building, now titled the Public Safety Center, is jointly occupied by Police and Fire Department headquarters staff.
1993 - First phase of the EMS Task Force Reorganization Plan was implemented.
January - The department responds to the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and dispatches our USAR team to Northridge, California following an earthquake in that region.
March - A citizen reported a broken water main and that a large column of water was gushing into the air at a location behind the Reston Hospital office building. What first was reported as "water" turned out to be fuel oil. A total of 407,736 gallons of #2 fuel oil escaped from a 36-inch intercontinental pipeline, operating at 415 p.s.i., before it could be controlled. The oil entered a nearby stream (Sugarland Run) enroute to the Potomac River. Environmental damage was evident throughout the County. Oil on the Potomac River was seen as far away as 50 miles, including the Gunston area where oil covered bald eagle nesting areas..
1994 - February - As a result of a 1993 Reorganization Plan, Paramedic Engines were placed in service at Stations 13 (Dunn Loring), 14 (Burke), 24 (Woodlawn), 30 (Merrifield) and 31 (Fox Mill). These engines would be staffed with four personnel, one of which must be a CCT, or advance life support (ALS) certified.
July - Paramedic Engines 12 (Great Falls), 16 (Clifton), 21 (Fair Oaks), 23 (West Annandale), 28 (Seven Corners), 34 (Oakton), 35 (Pohick), 36 (Frying Pan) and 38 (West Centreville) were placed in service.
1995 - January - In response to the tank farm and pipeline hazardous material incidents, the Board of Supervisors authorized the Fire and Rescue Department to establish a Hazardous Materials Services Section within our Prevention Division. This section provides remediation efforts for the county and enforces laws regarding environmental events.
March - The remaining non-paramedic Engines were converted to Paramedic Engines.
March - The Planning Section was re-created.
April - Following a request from FEMA, Virginia Task Force 1 (VATF-1), our USAR team, is sent to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in response to the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building.
September - Station 38 (West Centreville) opened. Truck 15 (Chantilly) moved to Station 38. Rescue Engine 25 (Reston) was placed in service (this was a combination engine and rescue squad vehicle).
October - The department reorganized the County into six battalions.
November - The Fire and Rescue Academy was dedicated to the memory of George H. Alexander, the department's third Fire Chief.
1996 - Station 37 (Kingstowne) opened. Ambulance 5 (Franconia) was moved to Station 37.
July - At the request of FEMA, the department's VATF-1 was sent to Atlanta, Georgia, to stand by at the summer Olympic games.
1997 - January - Fire Station 14 (Burke) caught fire during the night. Cause of the fire was determined to be an electrical short in the wiring of the rescue squad. Units were reassigned to other area stations until a temporary facility could be constructed. The paramedic engine continued to operate from a trailer on the site.
May - The Fire and Rescue Department opened its Occupational Health Center which consolidated the services required for maintaining firefighter medical standards.
September - The results of another consultant study (Peat Marwick [96-97]) resulted in the Fire and Rescue Department realigning some staff positions in Training, Prevention and Operations.
September - At the request of FEMA, the department's VATF-1 team was sent to North Topsail, North Carolina, to assist that area following a hurricane.
December - A temporary station and apparatus bay opened at Station 14 (Burke) until a permanent building could be constructed.
1998 - February - Medic 7 (Academy) went in service providing coverage five days a week, eight hours a day. The units primary purpose is to fill in at stations where the assigned Medic unit is in training for the day.
Another result from the Peat Marwick consultant study concluded with the following units being relocated:
February - An Automatic Aid Agreement went into effect with the U.S. Army's Fort Belvoir Fire Department. In accordance with the agreement, the "closest unit" responds to an emergency incident.
- Ambulance 21 (Fair Oaks) moved to Station 11 (Penn Daw).
- Ambulance 24 (Woodlawn) moved to Station 38 (West Centreville).
- Medic 38 (West Centreville) moved to Station 24 (Woodlawn).
July - At the request of the Governor of Virginia, the department sent a team of firefighters to Florida to assist that state with massive wildfires.
August - At the request of OFDA, the department's VATF-1 team was sent to Nairobi, Kenya, following the bombing of the American Embassy in that country.
December - Assistant Chief Edward L. Stinnette appointed as acting Fire Chief upon the retirement of Chief Gaines.
1999 - April - The Board of Supervisors appointed Chief Edward L. Stinnette as the department's sixth Fire Chief.
May - A "brush" fire was reported during the early morning hours by the Police Department's helicopter which was enroute back to its base following a routine incident. The "brush" fire turned out to be an estate home on fire. The home, which had been under construction for two years and nearing completion, was fully involved with fire. The $5 million price tag makes it the largest loss for a single family residence in department history.
June - A tractor trailer flipped onto its side while attempting to exit northbound Interstate 95 at the Springfield interchange. Its cargo, consisting of approximately 40,000 pounds of granulated black powder, caused a complete grid lock on the east coast as Interstate 95, 495 and 395 (in all directions), were closed. The department's Hazardous Materials Team offloaded this cargo of high explosives.
August - The department's Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team, VATF-1, was deployed to Izmit, Turkey, following an earthquake in that country.
September - The department's Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team, VATF-1, was deployed to Taiwan following an earthquake in that country.
October - Groundbreaking for Fire Station 14 (Burke), replacing their temporary facility.
November - The department's Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team, VATF-1, was deployed to Duzce, Turkey, following an earthquake in that country.
December - The position of Deputy Chief for EMS was replaced with Deputy Chief for Special Operations. This position manages all emergency medical, technical rescue, marine, hazardous material, and urban search and rescue programs. A new Battalion Chief for EMS and a Battalion Chief for OFDA/FEMA were created.
2000 - January 1 - The department successfully entered the new millennium without any "Y2K" problems.
January - The position of Women's Program Officer was created.
February - Groundbreaking for Fire Station 39 (Northpoint).
December - A new Spill Control Support Unit (SCSU) was placed in service at fire station 35. The SCSU carries large amounts of absorbent materials and spill control equipment primarily for hydrocarbon-type incidents. The intent is to place resources in close proximity to the interstate construction area to speed operations and to minimize the adverse impact on traffic and the environment.
2001 - April - Fire Station 39 (Northpoint) opens.
2002 - South Maintenance and Reserve Apparatus (Newington) opens.
2003 - May - Chief Stinnette retires and Assistant Chief Michael P. Neuhard appointed Acting Fire Chief
June - The Board of Supervisors appointed Chief Michael P. Neuhard as the department's seventh Fire Chief.
2004 - March 18 -Groundbreaking took place for Fairfax Center Fire and Rescue Station 40.
Fire and Rescue Boat 420 “Gunston Hall” is christened
2005 - April 1 - Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Ambulance Transport Billing begins.
November 5 - Groundbreaking took place for Crosspointe Fire and Rescue Station 41.
North Maintenance and Reserve Apparatus Facility opens.
Explorer Post 1949 is recognized.
2006 - January 23 - Upgraded A438 to M438
June 12 - Fairfax Center Fire and Rescue Station 40 became operational. Fairfax Center becomes the Department's 36th station and is the largest fire and rescue station in the County.
Tysons Corner EMS Training Simulation Center opens.
Rededication (renovation) of the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department.
Intersection Preemption signaling device program initiated.
2007 - January – Chief Neuhard retires and Assistant Chief David L. Rohr is appointed as Acting Fire Chief
June - The Board of Supervisors appointed Chief Ronald L. Mastin as the department’s eighth Fire Chief.
June 8 - Station 41 Opened.
Tenth Anniversary of the Public Safety Occupational Health Center.
Battalion Chief Christine Napier Woodard, becomes the first female deputy chief.
2008 - Pet oxygen masks were assigned to 37 engine companies and 25 advanced life support units.
Lieutenant Pamela Dailey and her daughter, Firefighter Erin J. Garner, became the first mother/daughter firefighter combination.
Sprinkler Training Laboratory the Fire Alarm and Sprinkler System Training Laboratory (FASST) opened.
2009 - Firefighters participated in the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. Live Fire Safety Studies.