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Come Celebrate! 100th Anniversary ENGINE COMPANY No. 23 — 1910-2010 | Community Spirit

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Come Celebrate! 100th Anniversary ENGINE COMPANY No. 23 — 1910-2010

This article as well as the photo were sent to us by Susan Trinter and was originally published in the Foggy Bottom News:

In 1910, the residents of Foggy Bottom prevailed upon the city for a new fire station.

Built at 2116 G Street NW (across from the historic Grant School/School Without Walls), Engine Company 23 is one of three fire stations constructed in the District prior to World War I and granted landmark status in 2005 by the Historic Preservation Review Board.

A focal point of the Italianate-styled architectural exterior is the arched door for the fire vehicles, originally pulled by a team of horses (Engine Company 23 was the last to rely on horsepulled equipment). When you visit, the building design may not really sink in until you go inside and look out. The tall (FBN guesses 30 feet) doors that open to reveal (alas, no horses) Engine 23 positioned for the next call in its role as a first responder.

Another original architectural feature is an interior circular metal staircase that looks as though it belongs in a lighthouse rather than a fire station. But, it was a practical design feature meant to prevent the horses from climbing the steps! The first firehouses also incorporated watchtowers, where firemen could scan the village to keep watch for a fire. In fact, there is a tall tower at the back of this building.

FBN visited Engine Company 23 and had a chance to chat with, and learn much more from, the crew about how our firefighters work their 24-hour shift. And, depending on injuries or duration of some events, the shifts can stretch on to two 24-hour shifts. The complexity of coordinating full city coverage 24/7 for each of the three types of equipment for each firefighter with a minimum of a 24-hour shift is no small feat. Their conversation was clearly filled with pride and became even more animated when they discussed responsibilities, pointing out the many photos and awards hanging on the wall of their community room. Among the photos are a number of pictures of firefighters working at the World Trade Center site in September 2001.

As Lt. Kevin McRae shared, “We’re like a football team. We all have our positions and we have to know what and when to perform.” The Engine’s doors are opened so that the crew of four loses no time when called to jump in, belt up and roll to their destination. As a “first responder,” Engine Company 23 is first to the fire and its goal is to “put the fire out” as soon as possible. While one of the four firefighters is hooking the hose to a hydrant, another firefighter is already discharging water from the 500 gallons of water stored on the engine to begin to put the fire out while the other two firefighters begin to drag the hose into the building and up the stairways—no easy task.


“Given that the water is discharged at 150 gal per minute, the engine tank lasts just over three minutes before the hydrant needs to kick in,” said Sgt. Matthew Cormicle. “Each firefighter is also trained in EMT, but our first priority is to get the fire out. The faster the fire is out the less chance there will be injuries or casualties.”


McRae and Cormicle were substitutes—in from two other District stations—for Engine Co. 23 the day FBN visited. The bond between them, also shared with the other firefighters, was of great fondness and respect. Cormicle shared that McRae taught him everything he knows.


They worked together eight years ago until both were promoted, and this was the first they had worked together in months.  FBN marveled as a call came in over the continuously functioning loudspeaker Engine Company 23. The firefighters excused themselves and moved briskly to the engine, which had pulled out of the station seconds later with lights flashing.


Engine Company 23 serves Foggy Bottom residences and businesses, GWU, the State Department, IMF, World Bank, Embassies and other organizations, and is located in a very transient section of the FB/WE neighborhood filled with thousands of undergraduate students. Unlike its counterparts, it may have fewer neighbors stopping in.


The Saturday, October 16th CELEBRATION, which will run from noon-5 p.m., is for the 100th anniversary of the building. The barbecue and tour of this lovely, historic building is also a perfect opportunity to get to meet these dedicated public servants. FBN wholeheartedly recommends that our FB/WE community make the effort to turn out from 1 to 3 to hear our firefighters’ thoughts and then, thank each of them for their tireless dedication. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes that we take for granted.


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