ARLINGTON, Va. -- Contractors began work here Monday, April 29, on the burner of the President John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame, which has been lit since 1967.

Technicians from Meltech Corp., Inc.; based in Landover, Md.; built an 8-foot temporary fence and installed a temporary flame at one of the most visited sites in Arlington National Cemetery.

The replacement of parts and systems associated with the burner is expected to last three weeks, while other portions of the upgrade work away from the immediate gravesite will continue through the summer.

"There is a lot of corrosion, so we are replacing those items as well as the burner itself," said Lt. Col. David Fedroff, Arlington National Cemetery chief of engineering.

Despite the work, contractors and cemetery officials didn't allow the symbolic flame to go out .
Instead, Randy Barton, a member of the cemetery' s engineering staff, used a torch to transfer the permanent flame to a temporary location.

"We felt it was important to maintain the flame," Fedroff said. "We feel we are continuing an important tradition in our nation's history and honoring President Kennedy."
The temporary flame will remain lit during the burner repair work and, once complete, the fence will come down and the flame will be transferred back to its permanent location at the Kennedy gravesite.

"The project is progressing well and on track for completion by November," said Suzanne Spence, Norfolk District project manager.

Contractors will also repair and replace the eternal flame's control systems, but that work isn't expected to affect the public's view of President Kennedy's gravesite.