As Santa Claus made a triumphant return to the Fairlington community on Dec. 11, leaders there were hoping that there would be a special gift – if not exactly under the tree on Dec. 25, at least somewhere on the horizon.
What gift? A gift of clarity . . . clarity over the future of Fairlington’s now-closed local fire station, that is.
The Arlington government three years ago closed Fire Station #7 over concerns about the structural integrity of its flooring. It has since been determined that it would be too costly to upgrade the facility to resume its original function, but competing planning priorities coupled with the COVID crisis have left the building’s future unclear.
A community process to determine the future of Fairlington’s 1940s-era, one-bay fire station has been on hold during the COVID crisis, but may be tackled in early 2022, Fairlington Citizens Association president Guy Land told the Sun Gazette.
That likely will include a survey of the community to determine its ideas for the building.
County officials closed Station #7 for what was then described as a temporary period in late October 2018 due to the structural concerns. Coverage of the Fairlington area was shifted to Fire Station #9, located on South Walter Reed Drive, with assistance from Alexandria units. The crew and apparatus from the Fairlington station were moved to Fire Station #4 in Clarendon.
Officials announced in late 2019 that the facility would close as a fire station permanently, but could be used for other purposes.
In announcing the permanent closure of the building as a firehouse, county officials noted that the total weight load on the main-level floor had increased 60 percent since its last major renovation in the 1980s. Some of the living quarters for firefighters at the station were located directly below the apparatus bay.
For years, personnel stationed at the Fairlington firehouse could be counted on to participate in local festivities, including the Independence Day celebration and providing a lights-flashing-and-sirens-wailing escort for Santa through Fairlington around Christmas. Fire Station #9 has continued the tradition, most recently on Dec. 11 with a visit to Fairlington by Santa and his elves, transported on fire equipment.
Ol’ Saint Nick visited with youth at Abingdon Elementary School, then sat atop a fire truck as he made the rounds of Fairlington to set a tone of holiday cheer in the community.