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D.C. hopes new firehouse part of area’s revitalization

Monday, February 19, 2018
Opens doors at former Walter Reed Medical Center property
Twin brothers Zephaniah Chamber, 6, and Dylan Chambers, 6, hold onto their hats as they watch Mayor Muriel Bowser announce the opening of the new Engine Company 22 firehouse on upper Georgia Avenue to a crowd of Ward 4 neighbors. The ribbon cutting ceremony on February the 16th, 2018 marks 121 years since Brightwood Park updated its original chemical firehouse which employs 12 fireman who operate a fire truck, a fire engine, and an ambulance. (Julia Airey/The Washington Times)

Washington Times by Julia Airey

The D.C. Fire and EMS Department at long last has added a new firehouse in upper Northwest, fulfilling 40 years of promises.

Engine Company 22 opened its doors Friday at The Parks at Walter Reed in the Brightwood neighborhood, becoming the third new firehouse to open under Mayor Muriel Bowser.

During a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Miss Bowser noted that the engine company was the site of the city’s first groundbreaking at The Parks at Walter Reed, the 66-acre redeveloped property that formerly housed the Army’s medical center. The District purchased the property from the Army for $22.5 million in 2014 with the goal of providing space for residences, retail stores, schools and other mixed-use projects.

“We are proud to deliver this tremendous facility to the men and women at FEMS and to the community,” the mayor said of Engine Company 22, which had been located in the 5700 block of Georgia Avenue NW since 1897 and now sits in the 6800 block of the avenue.

Comprising 12 firefighters, the $13.1 million firehouse is home to Fire Engine 22, Fire Truck 11 and Ambulance 22, serving both the Brightwood and Takoma neighborhoods. The state-of-the-art, 19,000-square-foot facility features three floors, a community room for neighborhood use, a green roof, and underground parking, as well as training and living spaces, for its personnel.

“This is not only a great example of a literally life-saving amenity to this community, but it also happens to be a part of a significant economic development project, which is the Walter Reed Army Medical Center project,” said Brian T. Kenner, deputy mayor for planning and economic development.

Mr. Kenner added that the firehouse “will be a cornerstone as the revitalization of the upper Georgia Avenue, NW corridor continues around Walter Reed.”

Lt. Rych Pullen has spent the last five of his 10 years with D.C. Fire at the old Engine Company 22 firehouse, where he said the doors were so narrow that ambulance drivers had to pull in their side mirrors in order to back into the station.

“Most of our day is spent stooping under things, so it is nice to have a little more space, a cleaner facility, less asbestos,” Lt. Pullen told The Washington Times. “That won’t be a problem here.”

Capt. Kwame Roberts helms Engine 22, and Capt. James Gordon manages Truck 11. Both officers have more than 20 years experience with D.C. Fire.

Their new station, formerly Walter Reed Building 18, joins the District’s 32 other firehouses, which employ 2,200 firefighters.

Residents expressed interest and excitement about the firehouse’s community room.

“It’s wonderful because it helps to center this community,” said Linda Wharton Boyd, 40, who works for the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority. “The fact that it’s not only open just because of emergency or fire, but it’s also opened up to the community — that’s the way you build relationships between our safety enforcement in the city and our residents.”

Resident Candace Nelson, 42, said the firehouse will be a boon for the Brightwood community in general.

“I think [the firefighters] are closer to more houses,” said Ms. Nelson, who works for the deputy mayor’s office. “I think they are more entrenched in the neighborhood in this location.”

Some firefighters said they never thought they’d see a new Engine Company 22. Lt. Pullen recalled a story from a colleague’s father who worked at Engine Company 22.

“When he was a rookie in they, ‘Don’t worry about it, kid. Don’t worry about cleaning up. We’re getting a new firehouse real soon,’” Lt. Pullen said. “That was in 1971.”