A structure fire is no way to end the old year or start the new year, but that’s exactly what happened several times in Fairfax County last week. Fortunately, there was no loss of human life in the fires, but the incidents remind us of the catastrophic potential of open flames and fireplace ashes, and how a little care and common sense could have prevented them. In two cases, fires started when fireplace ashes were stored in apparently flammable containers. The still-warm ashes flared up, destroyed their containers, and spread to the garage and living space. The Fairfax Fire and Rescue Department reminds homeowners that fireplace ashes should be placed in a non-combustible metal container with a lid and placed outside the home, not on decks, porches, or in garages. Pour water into the container to make sure the ashes are cool.
A fire in the Bailey’s Crossroads area was caused by an unattended candle in a basement. In their attack, firefighters discovered that an active gas meter was feeding the fire, causing additional damage to the upstairs. A second alarm was called and the fire was under control after about 30 minutes. No one was home but damage was estimated at $200,000. Again, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue reminds residents to keep burning candles within sight at all times, and always extinguish candles before leaving the home. Candles should be kept out of reach of children and pets, and away from anything that can catch fire.
A quick visit to New York City during the holidays demonstrated that snow removal anywhere is a challenge, both for residents and government. The New York television stations broadcast numerous citizen complaints about snow removal, and mayoral press conferences about the same. I had to chuckle, since it sounded a lot like a re-run of last winter’s “snow-mageddon” here, only with a New York accent. One difference I noticed was that residents and business owners, in mid-town Manhattan at least, did quite a good job of clearing the sidewalks. While you couldn’t walk two abreast, there was enough bare pavement to walk without a problem, except at the corners, which took some careful planning to traverse without slipping or stepping into an icy puddle. The only sidewalk not shoveled? The half-block in front of a city park! In Fairfax County, sidewalk snow removal is the civic responsibility of the property owner; unlike New York City, there is no ordinance or law that requires snow removal from pedestrian walkways, since the General Assembly has not enacted enabling legislation authorizing local governments to do so. Hopefully, our area will be spared the heavy snows of the past year, so shoveling will be moot.
Speaking of sidewalks, a constituent inquiry this week prompted a reminder about sidewalks along Route 7. Thanks to Fairfax County voters’ approval of the 2007 Transportation Bond, $15 million was allocated for pedestrian improvements that will enhance safety and connect missing links throughout Fairfax County. One of the projects is the Route 7 Pedestrian Initiative, which includes sidewalk installations where none exist along the north and south sides of Leesburg Pike/Route 7 in Fairfax County, between the boundaries of the cities of Falls Church and Alexandria. Preliminary design work in underway for several sections.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at [email protected]