Two decades after the terror attack at the Pentagon, the wait continues for the rebuilding of a firehouse and control tower that were destroyed on the grounds on Sept. 11, 2001. The attack leveled the facilities near the Pentagon’s helipad, which is used to transport federal officials, dignitaries and U.S. presidents to the Pentagon Reservation complex in Arlington, Virginia.
Despite years of lobbying from a federal employees' union and several legislative efforts in Congress to fund the reconstruction of the complex, the rebuilding has yet to fully commence, and no formal estimated date has been given.
"Hopefully, one day we’ll be able to say we accomplished the goal of building a new fire house,” said Mike Jackson, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local F-253, which represents firefighters assigned to protect the Pentagon helipad.
A review by the News4 I-Team found the firefighters assigned to the station have worked out of temporary trailers since 2001 and continue to do so, awaiting reconstruction of the destroyed fire station.
Jackson said the trailers are cramped and do not adhere to federal fire response standards, due to the limited space inside.
“It’s definitely not something people look forward to going and sitting in a trailer for potentially eight hours a day," he said.
A 2019 design concept for a new Pentagon firehouse submitted by the Department of Defense Washington Headquarters Service, and reviewed and released by the National Capital Planning Commission, said the temporary facilities “were intended to be temporary, are now beyond their useful operational life, and do not meet the functional or exterior standards for the Pentagon Reservation. They are inadequate in terms of size, technical requirements, and functional capabilities.”
The concept design reviewed by the National Capital Planning Commission was released soon after. It includes renderings showing possible layout and designs, showcasing larger bays for a fire engine and work space for firefighters
The Pentagon’s Washington Headquarters Service, which is tasked with reconstruction, declined multiple requests over several weeks from the I-Team to update the project’s status and timetable.
In a 2017 interview with the I-Team, an agency spokesman said the temporary structures being used by firefighters are “sufficient in the interim because the firefighters are not stationed there around-the-clock."
The firefighters who use the space are also stationed at a firehouse in a nearby Virginia community.
Union leaders said a crew of four is dispatched to the firehouse when the helipad is scheduled for use.
Congress approved plans to fund construction of a new firehouse and control tower for the helipad several years ago. Congressional records show the plans fizzled and funding was surrendered because officials underestimated the cost of the project. The proposals from contractors far exceeded the projected cost presented to Congress, according to the records reviewed by the I-Team.
Congress again approved funding in 2019 to initiate and complete the project. The concept design from the National Capital Planning Commission was released soon after. It includes renderings showing possible layout and designs, showcasing larger bays for a fire engine and work space for firefighters.
But the Pentagon has not announced a timetable, nor has it informed the union, Jackson said.
Virginia’s congressional delegation led efforts to secure the necessary funding for the rebuild.
“This is just one small example of the kinds of infrastructure we need to be re-investing in,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. “I'm glad it's being rebuilt. It's crazy that it took 20 years."
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said, “First responders at the Pentagon need the adequate facilities to be able to do their critical work. After years of pushing for funding for it, I’m happy to see this project finally underway. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will keep working to ensure our first responders at the Pentagon have the resources they need to respond to incidents and keep those who protect our nation safe.”