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Tuesday, March 21, 2023
ArlingtonPublic SafetyIconic fire station reaches end of the line

Iconic fire station reaches end of the line

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It may not be the most architecturally unique or aesthetically pleasing property out there, but for 60 years, Arlington’s Fire Station #8 has been a beloved centerpiece of the community that surrounds it.

And now, time has come for it to give way to the next generation of fire-fighting facilities.

Arlington officials have announced plans to begin tearing down the circa-1962 building, located on Langston Boulevard, in early May, with the goal of having it fully razed sometime in late June.

Demolition work will be in preparation for construction of the new fire facility that will rise in its place. Currently, an adjacent temporary station is housing firefighters and their equipment.


Demolition work is slated to run weekdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.. Once the main structure is removed, two fuel tanks also will be demolished.

Arlington voters in 2016 approved design funds for the project as part of a public-safety bond package, and in 2018 approved construction funds. County Board members in 2019 approved a $16.1 million construction contract for the project, with the new facility slated to replace the existing two-bay fire station that had stood guard on what was, until recently, known as Lee Highway.

When complete, the new facility will accommodate approximately 40 personnel, and also will feature elements focusing on the century-old history of the station, which began life as a volunteer operation in the then-segregated community of Halls Hill.

The 2019 County Board vote to move forward with the raze-and-replace construction project marked the culmination of four years of controversy, including a proposal from county staff to relocate the facility to a site on Old Dominion Drive. That staff position drew backlash from Halls Hill residents, who accused the county government of a lack of understanding of the importance of the station to their history.

Ultimately, the County Board sided with residents.

For a while in 2015-16, it appeared as if the question of where to place the station might emerge as the next big flashpoint in Arlington politics, following the battle-royale over the Columbia Pike streetcar. In the end, four County Board members voted in 2016 to keep the station where it long had been, while one (Libby Garvey) voted to support the staff recommendation moving it to Old Dominion Drive and 26th Street South.

In the 2016 decision, board member Christian Dorsey suggested the staff proposal hadn’t given enough weight to how such a move would be perceived by the historically African-American community located along both sides of Lee Highway in western Arlington. But he also acknowledged that the recommendation to move the fire station had been “a perfectly reasonable and appropriate” one for staff to make.

Those who advocated rebuilding on the existing site argued that more people would be best served by keeping the station where it is, particularly since the corridor is likely to experience significant residential and commercial growth in coming years.

Others, however, said the bigger public-safety threat was to homes in far northwest Arlington that have to wait longer for both fire and ambulance service, a wait that could have been lessened by moving the station to Old Dominion.

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