Firefighters, other agencies recognized for South Alex fire response

wide framed image of firefighters, police and others who helped with South Alex fire
(Fairfax County image)

The South Alex fire on February 8 was one of the biggest in Fairfax County history. It will also be remembered for the extraordinary efforts by the Fairfax Fire and Rescue Department — along with the many other fire departments that responded — to stop the massive fire before it could spread to nearby homes and businesses.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, firefighters and other first responders from Fairfax County and other jurisdictions were formally recognized by the county for their response to the $48 million blaze, which leveled the under-construction South Alex mixed-use development on North Kings Highway.

Chairman Jeff McKay noted the gratefulness of the community for the fire department’s actions that day, and said the county was fortunate to have “such talent in our public safety responders.”

“When you think about that fact that blocks and blocks and blocks of houses and businesses could have been on fire,” McKay said. “[T]he work of our men and women to be able to contain the fire to the site where it originated and protect life and property all around that area is just absolutely amazing.”

The fire was contained literally feet before it could jump to a row of 14 occupied townhouses, the Shelby and Kings Gardens apartment complexes and some single-family homes. The fire also somehow was stopped before it could burn down the Zips Dry Cleaning building on the corner of North Kings Highway and Poag Street, a minor miracle in its own right.

An early image of the fire. (Image courtesy of Jessica Nichols)
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A number of other agencies outside of Fairfax County were also recognized on Tuesday, including the Alexandria Fire Department, The Virginia State Police, the Red Cross, the Arlington Fire Department, the Fort Belvoir Fire Department, The Prince George’s County Fire Department, VDOT and Dominion Energy.

Fairfax Fire and Rescue Chief John Butler spoke at the ceremony and praised the work of his department, saying they maintained their poise when it mattered most.

“You know a day like February 8 will happen,” Butler said. “When the big one happened, they performed in a stellar manner.”