Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

Two house fires in two days, both caused by improper disposal of smoking materials, demonstrate just how easily life can change. An older one-story home on Alpine Drive in Annandale was damaged by fire that started with smoking materials in bedding. Oxygen was in use, which exacerbated the flames. The residents were able to escape, but a pet cat perished. The following day, a large home on Columbia Pike, across from Barcroft Plaza Center, was devastated by a fire caused by smoking materials discarded in a deck planter. That fire caused approximately $225,000 in damage, and melted the vinyl siding on a home next door. Columbia Pike was closed to traffic in both directions, as multiple fire personnel and apparatus battled to save surrounding properties from catching fire in the brisk summer winds that afternoon.

The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department (FRD) has numerous tips and recommendations for home fire safety at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fire-ems. In the search box, enter Educational Topics, and read the entire General Home Fire Safety manual of easy tips, in multiple languages. Most important is to have working smoke alarms on each floor of the home, including near sleeping areas. Smoke alarm batteries should be changed out with fresh replacements to ensure that the alarm can do its job. A good rule of thumb is to change the batteries in your smoke alarm when daylight savings time changes. If you use a charcoal grill for those lovely summer barbecues, or an outdoor fireplace, remember to douse the briquets or the ashes with water, and place the soggy ashes in a metal container away from your home or garage. Embers can stay hot for days, and more than one Mason District resident has lost a vehicle, a garage, or the whole house, because the ashes they thought were cold, weren’t.

Smokers should use sturdy ashtrays, and never stub out a cigarette in potted planting material. Today’s “soils” often have combustible components, so what you thought was garden soil may have wood chips, sawdust, petrochemicals, even paper, mixed in, creating significant fuel for a fire. A cigarette stubbed out into a planter can smolder for hours while the household is asleep, erupting into a raging fire when no one is watching. Two devastating fires, on the same day last year in western Fairfax, started in mulch or landscape materials, displacing dozens of people, who lost everything but the clothes they were wearing. Don’t let it happen to you. A little caution and thought saves lives, property, and pets.

November’s general election for local and state offices is set, as last week’s primary election determined Democratic candidates for some seats. The Republican Party generally uses a convention or caucus to select its candidates, and independent candidates are not subject to either process. Congratulations to Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay, who made a strong showing in a four-way race; State Senator Dick Saslaw, who edged out a spirited challenger; and newcomer Steve Descano, who defeated a well-known and seasoned Commonwealth’s Attorney. Countywide, about 10.3 percent of registered voters voted in person or absentee. In Mason District, that percentage was 12.7 percent, among the highest in the county.


  • Penny Gross

    Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov