Penn Daw Fire Department: Slade Barnes


Our biggest disaster we had here was where the Shell filling station is on Route 1 up there by the Texaco. Right back of it was a big dairy barn and they converted the stable into an apartment house and ten families lived there during the war. The people in this area knew it was the old stable. Soldiers lived there during the war. I think about twenty children lived in there. It caught on fire and burned up a lady and three children. They found two of them but they never found the third one.

My wife turned the alarm in. She was out in the yard hanging up clothes; the barn was just about 50 yards from our house. She went back in the house and looked out the kitchen window. She saw smoke. She just picked up the phone and called Joe Dove, the first paid fireman at Penn Daw. She said, "Joe, the old barn is on fire!" She grabbed a sweater and run out in the back yard. He got in and come down, one man on a truck. They fought and it burned.

That was the first fire that the Penn Daw had that they lost anybody. And up until that time there was no building code in Fairfax County. When you went to build your house you could build it upside down and they could have cared less. Just so you was on the books so they could tax you for it. After the fire, the people in this community gathered at the Penn Daw fire house and they demanded that the Board of Supervisors start what was then known as the building code.

Now the other disaster we had was a transport coming in on a night when a ceiling was down on top of your head. It came in over here on Popkins Lane, that little brick house that sets on the end of Popkins Lane. Well, it came in so low that it took the top off of that well house and missed the house by inches. It came and landed down on the bottom there. All the people in the plane got out, including one lady who had a little baby.

The boys at the Penn Daw fire house was standing out in the ramp looking up in the sky. They said, "Listen to that plane coming!" They jumped in their cars and went down. They hauled everybody out. The only one who really got hurt was the pilot who lost his eyesight. They gathered everyone up in automobiles and the ambulance. Penn Daw was the first fire department in Fairfax County to have an ambulance.

Mr. Proffit said he heard the noise and got up and looked out the window, and as far as he could see was just a sheet of fire. The stewardesses, they got the people out. Just as they got them out and cleared the plane, they had a sheet of fire almost a quarter of a mile of nothing but fire. They were very fortunate that no one got hurt in that.

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