From an oral history with Walter R. De Groot:
“Like I said, Fillmore Gardens [an apartment complex in South Arlington] before that was done, there was kind of a farm area there. The county didn’t pick up trash. You burned your trash and if you had a lot of waste, limbs and stuff breaking off the trees or raking leaves in the fall, you just drug them out [and] what you would have called “curbed” them…most of them were just drainage ditches and folks just dragged them out in the street and set them on fire. And I think that’s how some of those field fires got going; either kids deliberately set them or farmers just burning waste and just caught the field on fire.
An interesting thing I had to learn was sound of sirens. Every fire house had a code and you heard like the sound of the fifth cycle up and down, up and down, and you had to count those. As I recall, Clarendon was three. If they didn’t get many people they turned the siren on again and it would cycle up and down… If you heard the siren, you called the dispatcher and the dispatcher would just immediately spit out an address and hang up, he was so busy.
Then of course later on, a lot of the volunteer firemen company’s would buy radios and all the boys would have what they called scanners, and they’d pick up any of the radio messages. And of course whatever units were being dispatched you’d pick that up, that’s not my company, forget it.”
Virginia Room Oral History Collection
Walter R. De Groot, Series 3, # 103
The photograph above is the Clarendon Volunteer Fire Department building and trucks, ca. 1951.
What About You?
What are your memories regarding Arlington’s Fire Department or large fires in your neighborhood?