Commuter Idle: From Roanoke to Falls Church

Evans Edwards is a runner-up in WTOP’s first-ever Commuter Idle contest, and wins $150 in Exxon Mobil gas cards!

Neal Augenstein, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Firefighting is already a demanding and dangerous job.

Add a three-plus hour commute from Roanoke, and it’s a doozy.

Evans Edwards is a career firefighter and medic for Fairfax County Fire and Rescue. He loves his job, but he’s not so crazy about his 235-mile, three-hour-20-minute one-way commute.

Edwards leaves his house in Roanoke by 2:45 a.m. to get to Fire Station 418 in the Falls Church area by 6 a.m., even though his shift doesn’t start until 7 a.m.

“By tradition, firefighters relieve the off-going shift as close to 6 a.m. as possible,” Edwards says.

One benefit of the job — it’s not a Monday through Friday gig.

“I work a 24-hour shift. In a given month I work 10 shifts,” he says.

“The commute is a grind,” says Edwards — an understatement.

“It’s I-81 to I-66 almost the whole way. I-81 is a driver’s death trap with many more tractor-trailers on the road overnight than cars.”

The uncertainty of a firefighter’s shift makes the commute even more exhausting.

“There’s no guarantee once I get to work that I’ll have any sleep until I sign off the next day. Most nights we catch a few hours. Sometimes it’s only 2-3 hours.

“Every once in a while we are up all night.”

The obvious question for Edwards is: Why?

“The fire department is the best job in world, and Fairfax County is one of the best fire departments in the world,” says Edwards.

“I used to be a corporate lawyer, so I’ve seen the office side of things.”

Edwards says he and his wife grew up in Roanoke and he has a family of six.

“(We) decided to move back at the end of 2008 after my sister died… so we could be close to her two kids and my parents,” says Edwards.

While Edwards loves his job, he is willing to make the sacrifice for his family.

“I may have the worst commute in the DMV.”

It’s tough to argue with him.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein travels along with Evans Edwards to learn more about the long trek:

Evans Edwards talks about the seven-hour round trip and what makes it worth it:

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