Ho, ho, hold up! Is Santa Claus is riding on a fire truck? He will be, starting on Tuesday, Dec. 15 as part of the Falls Church Volunteer Fire Department’s Santamobile program, which lasts through Wednesday, Dec. 23.
For eight days starting next Tuesday, Santa will be riding on a reserve fire engine, decorated with lights, through the streets of the greater Falls Church area.
According to Ian Weston, president of the Falls Church Volunteer Fire Department, the cost for the service is approximately $2,000 each year, including the costs of candy canes, fire prevention fliers and dog treats.
The Santamobile passes out over 8,000 candy canes, about 800 per night, and “countless dog biscuits” during Santa’s tour each year, according to Falls Church volunteer firefighter Adam Gruen. The fire truck toting Santa around will decorated in 2,500 Christmas lights and over 300 feet of tinsel.
According to Weston, the Santamobile covers between 10 – 12 miles each night during the program, which amounts to close to or over 100 miles each year.
The Santamobile may be lighthearted and festive, but there is a serious mission at the core of the program – each year there is an increase in the amount of fire-related incidents during the Winter months, something the Falls Church Volunteer Fire Department wants to help curb.
“This has morphed into a feelgood event for the City where we are able to connect with City residents to promote very important fire safety education and reminders,” Weston said.
“Because holiday season tends to be a very dangerous environment for the U.S. as a whole. A large number of injuries and deaths occur during the Winter season and the holiday season between New Years, trees and cooking that we hope to try to stymie.”
Often times, City residents have questions about fire safety that are not addressed by the literature that the fire department passes out.
Many times, Weston said, residents want questions answered by the fire department while they are touring with the Santamobile that would require a home visit by the firefighters, but the department tries to limit the length of time the Santamobile stays stopped in one place in order to reach as many houses as possible.
Gruen said that the Santamobile passes by about 95 percent of all City residents during the program each year.
To help answer as many questions as possible, there is a quick response or QR code included in the fliers the fire department hands out that directs people to the department’s website that has a list of fire safety tips for the Winter season.
“Also, the fire station is always happy to bring and install fire alarms free of charge to anyone in the community,” Weston said.
“That’s a service that the City and the counties provide and that’s something that we also try to promote throughout the season.”
On the first five nights of the Christmas-themed tour, according to a press release from the City of Falls Church, Santa and his elves will visit each neighborhood in the City of Falls Church.
The remaining nights will be spent making up for time lost to inclement weather and visiting neighborhoods in Arlington and Fairfax counties.
During each night’s three-hour run, which lasts from 6:30 – 9:30 p.m., Santa’s helpers will be handing out candy canes and fire safety literature. Anyone who wishes to receive these free items are encouraged to greet Santa at the curb.
This provides the safest conditions for Santa’s helpers and ensures they have an opportunity to visit the largest number of our friends and neighbors.
In the event of inclement weather, Santa Mobile will be canceled for the safety of Santa, his elves and all of residents who come out to see Santa.
On Tuesday, Dec. 15, the Santamobile will travel through the St. James Cemetery and Virginia Forest neighborhoods, up to and including Seaton Lane and S. Oak Street south of the Tripps Run bridge. On Wednesday, Dec. 16, the Santamobile will travel north of W. Broad Street, including Little Falls Street.
Then, on Thursday, Dec. 17, Santa will take to the streets south of W. Broad Street in the Tyler Gardens neighborhood and Virginia Forest neighborhood south of Seaton Lane, which also includes streets north of the Tripps Run bridge, including Hillier Street, S. Oak Street, Lee Street, Rees Place and Chanel Terrace.
The next day, on Friday, Dec. 18, the Little Falls neighborhood and streets east of Washington Street, including the Madison Park and Whittier Park neighborhoods, will be graced by the presence of Santa and his elves.
Finally, on Saturday, Dec. 19, the Santamobile will hit the streets of the Broadmont neighborhood and streets on the north side of Hillwood east of Cherry Street. Santamobile 2015 is sponsored by Don Beyer Volvo and Beyer Kia. For more information and to find updated schedules for Santamobile, visit fallschurchvfd.org.