District of Columbia Completes 10-Year Expansion Program
Success of planned improvements results in tentative projection to 1970 for final phase
WASHINGTON, D.C., proud of its efficient fire department and determined to hold its long-time National Board top rating, this year completes a 10-year capital-outlay program of continuing replacement of facilities and acquisition of new apparatus. Based on the success of the program to date, it has been tentatively phased forward to 1970.
A medium-sized major metropolitan department shaped around 32 engine companies, 17 truck companies, three rescue squads, the city’s ambulance service, a fireboat, and special-purpose or auxiliary pieces, the District of Columbia Fire Department has been averaging about one replacement fire station or other departmental installation per year since 1954. Late last month the most recently built station, in the southwest section, for Engine 8 and Rescue Squad 3, was put in service while the nearby quarters of Engine 18 and Truck 7, dating from 1904, were closed down.
The structural inventory of the DCFD comprises 38 buildings. Of these, 15 (including the fireboat’s quarters) are single-company stations, all but two assigned to engine companies. Nineteen more housed two companies, either engine and truck, or engine and rescue squad. The department has a separate headquarters and communications center, strategically located on high ground for optimum radio characteristics and closely adjacent to the D.C. Water Department’s Macmillan Reservoir headquarters in central Washington. In addition to its headquarters and fire stations, the DCFD has a supporting establishment consisting of a property and purchasing building (for many years Engine 10’s quarters on Maryland Avenue), the new training school, and new repair shop, the latter two completed since 1960 and each representing a $1 million investment.
Of the fire stations just mentioned, nine of these still in service were built between 1855 and 1900, 13 between 1901 and 1920, and 15 from 1921 to the present. The oldest station in service, that of Engine 6, on Massachusetts Avenue not far from Capitol Hill, was originally built to house a volunteer hook-and-ladder company of pre-Civil War days. On the basis of a 70-year useful life, which is the planning figure used for station replacements by Battalion Chief M. H. Clarke, DCFD property and purchasing officer, most of the few houses antedating 1901 will be gone by 1970, and in addition, at least one double-company station is planned to take care of additional units projected in the department’s long-range development plan.
The recently activated quarters for Engine 8 and Squad 3 embody the most modern thinking in firehouse design as well as general trends in the District of Columbia. As in the bulk of construction newly completed or planned, it is a commodious, welllighted and airy one-floor house with quarters for the two companies in opposite wings flanking the apparatus floor. (While real estate factors will in the future continue to dictate a few two-story quarters, it is planned to have the DCFD preponderantly in one-floor stations by 1970.) The new house is double-ended, with front and rear apparatus doors, and a spacious concrete apron in rear, complete with water supply appliances for training evolutions, and fenced-in parking facilities for all hands. At least one such training layout is projected in new construction for each of the four geographical sections of the city, thus decentralizing the periodic operational training required of the various companies, and obviating the necessity for them to perform all such duty at the training school proper in Anacostia, which is remote from companies in the northern portion of the District.
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D. C. Improvement Program
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Including its newest station (which is also the first completed during the tenure of Chief Engineer R. C. Roberts), the DCFD has built the following houses or facilities under the 10-year program since 1953:
1954—Double house, 50—49th Street, N. E. (E. 30, T. 17)
1957—Double house, 2425 Irving Street, S. E. (E. 32, Rs. 3)
1960—Double house, 2225 M Street, N. W. (E. 1, T. 2); double house, 450—6th Street, S. W. (E. 13, T. 10); training school, 4600 Overlook Avenue, S. W.
1961—Single house (co-located with shop) (E. 7); Repair shop, 1101 Half Street, S. W.
1964—Double house, 1520 C Street, S. E. (E. 8, Rs. 3)
What the foregoing means is that about one fifth of the department has gotten new quarters in the past decade. Projected forward in the 1965-1970 capital-outlay plan, replacement quarters are in sight for five more engine companies (Engines 9, 15, 6, 4, and 11) and two truck companies (Trucks 4 and 6). Making canny use of slumclearance and urban development areas, budget officers have obtained sites on advantageous rates while at the same time departmental planners have gradually been able to shift companies from too central locations based on horse-drawn apparatus, to peripheral spots giving better coverage to the city as a whole.
Besides the company quarters just discussed, the DCFD repair shop and training school, both brand new, compare with any in the country.
The repair shop, located in the heart of the southwest redevelopment area, is a one-story, block-square, brick structure containing heavy maintenance, repair, and if needed, construction equipment and facilities. Under Superintendent of Machinery H. B. McDonald, much of the shop has been stocked with machinery and equipment from the adjacent U.S. Naval Gun Factory whose output has been drastically cut back in the missile age. Following DCFD practice, an engine company (Engine 7) has quarters integral to the shop complex.
The new training school, commanded by Chief Instructor J. B. Barry (whose retirement is scheduled in the near future) is made up of a classroom building including ladder tower and gas chamber; a six-story drill tower; and a fire training building which is equipped with thermocouples and smoke-generating machine and is designed to simulate all types of structural fires. The training school compound also includes an ex-tank car for oil fires, a large transformer for electrical fires, a block for auto fires, and other specialized simulators. Fifteen-man recruit platoons go through the school on a 35-day cycle. In addition, the school performs retraining of certain firemen, advanced technical training, and unit training for the respective companies.
Personnel and equipment
The Washington Fire Department has a uniformed strength of 1,406 officers and men, 320 of whom are on duty in the Fire Fighting Division at any given time. The other divisions of the department are:Administrative, Fire Prevention, Apparatus, and Training.
Included in the million-dollar apparatus inventory are more than a hundred pieces of apparatus and auxiliary vehicles. All 32 engine companies run as two-pumper units with five-man crew, so that, with off-shift | men, the DCFD can mobilize 64 single-piece engine companies running combination (750-gpm pumper with 5,000 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose and 3,000 feet of 1 1/2-inch), not counting reserve pieces. The basic reserve apparatus inventory for Washington is that prescribed by the National Board: eight pumpers, four aerial trucks, and one rescue squad wagon.
Apparatus plans approved and funded by Congress are based on the following factors: five pumpers/year (12-year average life); one aerial truck/year (17-year life); five chiefs’ rigs/year (6-year life); three ambulances/year (3-year life); and one rescue squad wagon (6-year life) every other year.
By 1970 it is projected that one additional engine company, one truck company, one ambulance unit, and possibly one more rescue squad, will be added to the department’s roster. Since the boundaries of the District of Columbia are fixed (and since the Washington metropolitan area has long since overflowed these, with suburban organizations having fire protection responsibilities in neighboring Maryland and Virginia), it seems probable that the 1970 figure will represent something close to a longterm level for the fire forces.
Regardless of the shape (or size) of things to come, however, the Washington Fire Department (ably seconded by the District’s enthusiastic buffs’ group, the Friendship Fire Association) looks to the future with carefully considered plans and progress and with an attitude of mind and outlook as professional and modern as tomorrow.