Firefighters respond to tar pot fire near Fort Myer Exchange
March 12, 2014
By Jim Goodwin
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - Local firefighters extinguished a tar pot fire about 15 feet away from ongoing construction at the Exchange on the Fort Myer portion of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall March 10.
Firefighters responded after receiving a phone call from a gate guard at Hatfield Gate. The fire did not cause any injuries or property damage, and took less than five minutes for firefighters to extinguish with dry-chemical extinguishers, according to Fire Chief Russ Miller.
"There could have been a threat to life or property if the fire had gone beyond its container," said Miller.
Still, traffic at Hatfield Gate was rerouted temporarily as firefighters responded, although reopened shortly after the fire was extinguished. Joint base officials immediately announced the closure and details of the incident via social media after receiving the initial report of the fire.
Miller emphasized the speedy phone report as central to ensuring first responders' quick response, and in turn, the fire's extinguishment before spreading and possibly endangering people or property.
"They saw it, had direct line of sight of the fire, and called it in," said Miller. "If it had been closer to the building, it could have been a threat."
Miller added that firefighters faced no challenges in responding quickly, thanks to timely reporting of the fire, in line with standards detailed in FMMC 420-1-25, the joint base Fire Prevention Program. That document directs those who observe a fire to report it immediately, either by calling 911, which routes emergency calls to Arlington County Emergency Services, or by contacting the fire department directly at 703-696-3600. At a minimum, those reporting a fire should identify the building number and address and type of fire observed. Observers should also direct personnel to evacuate any building on fire after calling in the report.
Any activity that uses an open flame source, such as welding or soddering, must be approved by the joint base fire department. Workers can request a "hot works permit" by contacting the fire department at 703-696-3483.
The tar that caught on fire was to be used as part of repair work on the roof of the Exchange. The pot was used to heat the tar.
The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.
This was the first fire joint base firefighters responded to this year. Last year, firefighters responded to a building fire caused by an open flame candle. In 2012, firefighters responded to two fires at Fort Myer: a vehicle fire in September and a building fire in November.
The Fire Prevention Program can be found online by clicking on the "JBM-HH Regulations" tab on the joint base website, http://www.army.mil/jbmhh.