As citizens of Arlington County, you may be wondering “are my fire and rescue services provided by volunteer firefighters?” The answer is no. The Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) and its 330 members, is a fully tax-funded entity providing Fire, EMS, Haz-Mat, Technical Rescue, Fire Prevention, and all other related emergency services 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. There appears to be some confusion about this fact, which may be due to several factors.
In Arlington County, volunteer firefighters provided all of the firefighting services until 1940. At that time, it was recognized that the growth the county was experiencing was outstripping the volunteers’ ability to provide service. Thus was formed the Arlington County Fire Department. During the post-World War 2 era, Arlington experienced rapid population and infrastructure growth. This resulted in a commensurate increase in demand for fire services which drove the expansion of the department. This increased demand has continued up until today, and has resulted in the creation of an all-hazards response organization consisting of 10 fire stations, 330 uniformed personnel, and approximately 30 staff personnel. Over time, the Arlington County Fire Department gradually assumed all responsibility for Fire and Rescue service delivery, and the role of the volunteer organizations has all but disappeared. Arlington County has also contracted with the City of Falls Church to provide fire protection service to the city. Fire station 6 (Falls Church) is staffed 24/7 with Arlington County Firefighters, and is owned and maintained by the City of Falls Church.
What is the Arlington County Fire and Rescue Association?
ACFRA is the parent organization of the volunteer fire corporations in Arlington. ACFRA consists of 2 volunteer companies ( Co. #3 Cherrydale and Co. #1 Arlington) in Arlington. Of the two, Co. #3 may provide some non-emergency support with their light and air unit.
What is the role of volunteers in Arlington, and why do I receive fund raising letters from the volunteer organizations?
The past contributions of the Arlington volunteer fire companies are honorable and deserving of respect; however their current role is limited to non-emergency support functions only. When you dial 911, Arlington County professional firefighters will respond to your home or business, every hour of the day, every day of the year. Donating to a volunteer fire company will not effect fire and rescue operations in Arlington County.
Volunteer firefighters and equipment do not supplement the staffing of the Arlington County Fire Department.
This is due in part to the fact that, as members of private organizations, volunteers are under no obligation to respond, and therefore their participation is discretionary. Fire apparatus in Arlington are fully staffed by professional firefighters, to accepted National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards. In Arlington, all professional firefighters are trained to the same high standard during a mandatory 22 week recruit school, conducted by academy staff with many years of professional fire and EMS experience.
What does all this mean to me?
At certain times during the year, volunteer fire corporations mail solicitations for donations throughout Arlington County, and the City of Falls Church, under the premise that these donations are necessary for the continuation of essential fire and rescue services to you. Because fire and rescue services are 100% funded through taxes, no donations are necessary for this purpose. The Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association is the only representative employee organization of the ACFD, and we do not solicit donations. We simply want you to be aware that we are not responsible for any fundraising letter you may receive, and in no way are your fire and EMS services affected by your choice of whether or not to donate to a volunteer fire corporation.
Thank you very much for your support, and stay safe.