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Firefighters Prepare for Rescues in Region’s Tallest Buildings

Hopefully, the firefighters of Station 29 will never have to use their familiarity with new high-rise buildings across Tysons. But just in case, the crew has been spending the last few weeks exploring the unfinished interiors of Tysons’ tallest structures.

Captain David Bentley from Station 29 said it’s useful for firefighters to take a look inside the buildings before the drywall and the finishing touches are added to see how the buildings are structured and to understand the layout.

“If there’s an emergency, when it’s finished or during construction, this way it will be easier for us to get to patients,” said Bentley. “We need to know how the floors are made, what the ceiling looks like, and what’s between the drywall.”

At The Boro, for example, Bentley said they’re using aluminum studs in the walls while many smaller construction projects use wood. While wood burns when exposed to direct flame, or can smolder and fail over time, Bentley said aluminum studs fail quicker because they start to warp when exposed to intense heat. Bentley said information like that helps firefighters understand how much time they have to continue working to extinguish a fire safely or rescue people from the building.

One of the most interesting buildings Bentley said they visited was the new 31-story Capital One tower, the tallest building in the greater Washington area.

“It’s an absolutely amazing building,” said Bentley. “The sheer number of people working there, elevators, and security, it’s all absolutely amazing… Some of these bigger [buildings have fire pumps that run up to the top floor, and the size and amount of these pumps are quite large and they have to have a backup in case they fail. They have five massive diesel generators the size of cruise ship engines to keep the place running.”

One of the unique features of the new Capital One building is a fire suppression device that rolls over the escalators like a conveyer belt and seals them off, which both stops the fire from spreading to higher floors but also cuts off a route of ingress or egress for those needing to get to or away from the fire.

“I’ve never seen that before,” said Bentley. “It would definitely cut off a route, whether we need to go up or down, but it’s meant to stop vertical fire spreads. There are plenty of other exits in that building and I’m sure security has pre-plans, but that’s definitely a unique challenge.”

Bentley said the sheer verticality of these buildings presents a challenge as well. While Bentley says firefighters can respond to most emergencies in downtown Tysons in five minutes, getting the right equipment to the right floor can take twice as long. Once inside, maneuvering around the building in an emergency situation can be difficult as well, as evidenced by the dramatic rescue via construction crane last month.

“We practice a lot,” said Bentley. “We have drills once a week on high-rise operations. We assign people on different apparatus to different tasks. Paramedics will grab one length of hose to take to the fire floor. The firefighter on the right side of the engine will grab another section of hose. I’ll grab the officer’s bag, which has tools to hook into pipes. This way we can take any hose down any hallway to get to the fire.”

Bentley says the crew of Station 29 visited the Boro (8301 Greensboro Drive) and the Capital One building (1600 Capital One Blvd) and older buildings like Kaiser Permanente’s Tysons Corner Medical Facility (8008 Westpark Drive) and Rotunda Apartments (8352 Greensboro Drive).

Bentley said the firefighters also travelled to low rise buildings, like Cava and Honeygrow in Pike 7 Plaza, to familiarize crews with the new small developments he says are popping up all over.

Photos via Twitter

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Morning Notes

HQ2 in Fairfax County? — Amid anticipation for Amazon’s announcement as to where it will establish its second headquarters, officials in Fairfax County are not betting the farm on it coming to the county. But even if it goes elsewhere, the local sites identified as a possible HQ2 landing spot stand to benefit from the Amazon attention. [Washington Business Journal]

Tysons People, Projects Awarded — Some Tysons people and projects were award recipients at the annual CREW D.C. awards ceremony last week. Among those honored by the organization, which brings together women in the local commercial real estate industry, were Capital One Mid-Atlantic Market Manager Sadhvi Subramanian and Meridian Group’s massive The Boro project in Tysons. [Bisnow]

Next Week: Open House at Fairfax Fire Stations — “In celebration of Fire Prevention Week, all Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Stations will be hosting an Open House on Saturday, October 13 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Stop by your local station that day to meet your firefighters, see the fire trucks, join in the activities and learn about fire safety.” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]

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A Look Inside The Boro, the Massive New Development in Tysons

(Updated at 4:30) — The Boro, a mixed-use complex being built near the Greensboro Metro station, has topped out.

Caroline Flax, senior analyst for site developer The Meridian Group, said the complex is as tall as it’s going to get, so it’s time for a review of the project and where it stands.

The project is broken into five lettered sections filling the block southeast of the Leesburg Pike and Westpark Drive intersection. The area is just west of the Tysons Galleria mall.

Furthest along is Block C, a grouping of two major buildings and a much smaller kiosk. A third building has been approved for the block but has not begun construction. The largest occupants of Block C are the Showplace ICON movie theater and a 437,000 square-foot office building. The kiosk in the one acre park will be where Bluestone Lane, an Australian-inspired coffee chain, will be opening their first Virginia location.

Flax said this side of the project is expected to be completed by the end of this year. In the first two quarters of 2019, Tysons Reporter was told, the office tenants will begin to move into Block C.

Meanwhile, to the northwest of Block C, the skeleton of Block A has been completed. Block A is the primarily residential area of the complex. In August, Flax said the tall towers of Block A, the 27-story apartment “Rise” tower and the 25-story luxury condominium “Verse” tower, had all of their floors poured into place. Work is now beginning on the facades and the interior of the buildings.

A 69,000 square-foot Whole Foods will occupy the base of the northern point of Block A, at the corner of Greensboro Drive and Westpark Drive.

Block B of the project, southwest of Block A, is The Loft. At five-stories tall, The Loft dwarfed by its northern residential neighbors. But the 77,000 square-foot building will stretch along the length of the new street Boro Place and hold two floors of retail and three stories of offices above that.

“Boro Place is the retail spine of The Boro,” said Flax.

Several restaurants are already signed to move into Blocks A and B, including:

  • Fish Taco, a DC based taco chain
  • Tasty Kabob, the first brick-and-mortar location for a popular local food truck
  • Flower Child, a cast-casual restaurant specializing in healthy food
  • North Italia, an Italian restaurant specializing in handmade pizzas and pasta
  • Tropical Smoothie Cafe, a national smoothie chain

Taylor Gourmet had been signed to move into the area as well, but the chain filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy at the end of September and closed all locations. Flax said no decision on a new occupant has been finalized but that there are several prospects for the location under consideration.

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