Police Helicopter Crew Discovers Fire; Four Rescued from Burning Home

The flight crew aboard Fairfax 1 observed smoke in the vicinity of Lee Highway and Ox Road on Sunday, November 1, around 3:30 a.m., as they were returning to base from a burglary call in the Mason Police District. Utilizing the infrared camera (FLIR), they located a significant heat source coming from a residence located in the 4400 block of Altura Court.

A closer look revealed the heat source was a fire; a shed connected to the home had caught fire. The crew utilized the moving map GPS system in the helicopter to verify the street address. They notified dispatch via the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue radio channels and requested the fire department dispatch a full “Box Alarm” for a structure fire.

The crew utilized the camera system to ascertain whether any individuals were near the home.  They also assisted in locating a fire hydrant close to the house and relayed that location to responding fire department units to expedite suppression efforts.  The flight crew remained overhead as fire personnel arrived and made contact with four occupants, who had been inside the home.  The Fairfax 1 crew remained overhead until they received confirmation no one required medical air transport, then returned to base.

Battalion Chief Andrea Clark, of the City of Fairfax Fire Department, and a member of the Fairfax County Fire Marshal’s Office commended the flight crew’s efforts that night and noted their discovery and quick response most likely saved four people’s lives.  The residence was occupied by a 71-year-old adult and three children, ages 10, 11 and 12. All had been asleep inside the home; none required medical attention.

Our public safety agencies often train for incidents such as these and this night, they put their training to the test. A swift and coordinated effort between the Fairfax County Police and Fire Departments and the Public Safety and Transportation Operation Center was monumental in the successful outcome of this night.