Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Association
Thu. Dec 12th 2019

Dear ODHFS members – the oldest continuous operating fire museum in Virginia is always looking for new members. Now is a good time to join and membership offers discounted admissions and a monthly newsletter with very interesting history of the Alexandria, Va. FD. ODHFS is a partner with the Friendship Fire Museum. We have participated with apparatus in some of their events in the past.

Of note is their annual breakfast meeting followed by The Alexandria President’s Day Parade, which ODHFS used to be a regular participant. Of course it is held each year on President’s Day, which is February 17, 2020.

Last year, Debbie & I checked off one of my bucket list items by attending the breakfast meeting. We traveled to Alexandria the afternoon before (Sunday), had a room at a close by Holiday Inn, a wonderful dinner at an excellent waterfront restaurant and walked to the meeting the next morning. Yes it is a meeting BUT the breakfast was wonderful, the guest speaker was fantastic and we met quite a few folks we had not had the opportunity to meet before and never would if not for this event.

While there, my thoughts centered around “wouldn’t it be nice if ODHFS sponsored a table and we had a group of us there instead of just Deb & myself”?

If you have an interest in attending this coming year, please RSVP to me so I can start to put together a list of ODHFS attendees.

On an additional note – The ODHFS for years participated in the President’s Day Parade with our apparatus. For some unknown reason, we gradually stopped attending this event. It would be wonderful if the Northern Region picked up this event and starting making our presence known once again.  Yes, the weather can be dicey or a bit cold, but that can add to the memories!

Please consider joining The Friendship Firehouse as a member and they are also accepting donations for the restoration of their hand pumper.

Hope to hear from some of you about joining & attending the President’s Day Breakfast & Parade!


 Tommy Herman




From: Bill Kehoe []
Subject: Friendship Newsletter

Friendship Members,



Our Historian Catherine Weinraub has written another superb article on the  history of the fire service in Alexandria, see below.  

As we approach the end of the calendar year if you want to make a tax deductible donation to Friendship, please do so.  We are beginning to assemble funds to finance the restoration of the hand-drawn pumper.  

The Board of Trustees wish every Friendship member a Happy Thanksgiving.  Enjoy the holiday with family and friends.

Bill Kehoe, Secretary-Treasurer
Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Association

4611 Strathblane Pl, Alexandria, VA 22304


Fire is Everyone's Fight




Sound the Alarm:

The Need for a Fire Alarm System

Beginning in the 1830s, but especially the 1850s, Engine Houses replaced sheds and bells were still used to summon men to their stations for equipment and to the fire As the City of Alexandria expanded, bells could be rung for the appropriate Ward (the town was divided into four), but without an address confusion ensued. Unfortunately, many people called into the Police Department with a wrong address or as a prank, sending firemen on a wild goose chase. By 1915, the push for a fire alarm system was underway, “The need of an adequate fire alarm system for Alexandria was demonstrated last night when the apparatus of the various fire companies was sent in all directions in answer to an alarm of fire. …The three companies each went in different directions as the location of the fire had not been made clear in the telephone communication[i]

In July of 1916 the almost exact same words were written, but went on to say every time apparatus was sent out, it cost the city $25. Cost was an issue and a special committee investigating fire conditions in Alexandria recommended to City Council installing a fire telegraph alarm, electrical inspections, a revision of building laws, “that unless action is taken there would be an increase in fire insurance rates in the city which would mean the payment of about $20,000 additional in premiums by property owner[ii].”

While the debate of installing an alarm went on for a few more years, neighboring towns made the progressive move. The town of Potomac was charted in 1908 and annexed by Alexandria in 1930. They received their alarm system by 1914, “The Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company has arranged for a system of fire alarms for the town of Potomac by which fire alarms will be transmitted to three places in the town in case of fire[iii].”

            The fire alarm system only not just helped the paid firefighters, but it impacted the volunteer department as well “The duty of sounding these alarms rests upon the policeman on night duty but most of the time they are not in the vicinity of the fire stations and sometimes it is probably ten minutes before a bell is rung. When a fire is in progress men are needed quickly and it is folly to rely on the antiquated system longer. The volunteer firemen of the city are keenly interested and anxious to know what sort of a report the joint committees on finance and fire will make to City Council tonight[iv].”

By 1920, it appears that the alarm system was underway, at least at one of the stations, “Resolution appropriating $200 for installing lighting alarm system at Columbia engine house was referred to joint committee on fire and finance. It may have already been installed as on the same day, the Alexandria Gazette also mentioned appropriation of $200 to repair the electric and fire alarm system[v]. The following year City Council agreed to make appropriations for the purchase and installation of a combination fire and police alarm system. “Fire officials and police officials recognize the need of such a system and its installation it is pointed out would be of great benefit and savings to the city in every respect. Such a system is badly need here[vi]

A new system was needed to get the City’s firemen to a blaze. When technology changed and improved, Alexandria incorporated the equipment into the structure of the department. Over time this saved the city hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless lives. 

[i] Want Alarm System. Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Virginia). 15 Mar 1915. 2.

[ii] Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Virginia). 24 Nov 1915. 1. 

[iii] Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Virginia). 12 Mar 1914. 1 

[iv] The Automatic Fire Bell (Communicated). Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Virginia). 26 Oct 1920. 2. 

[v] Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Virginia). 11 Feb 1920. 1.

[vi] Police and Fire Alarm: City Council Will be Asked to Make Appropriations for Such. Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Virginia). 14 Feb 1921. 1. 

108 entries in the News

108 entries in the News

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