A fireworks display put on by a Washington builder to celebrate the sale of a luxury housing development on cliffs in Arlington overlooking the Potomac River was heard for miles around last night, prompting a flood of calls to police and fire departments.

The fireworks were set off about 11 p.m. in the 100 block of Chain Bridge Road as part of a private celebration held by builder Samuel P. Pardoe at the site of the four luxury houses, which he described as villas. The houses, which overlook the river, were priced at more than $1 million each, Pardoe said.

In addition to Arlington, the 15-minute fireworks display was heard throughout much of Northwest Washington west of Connecticut and Wisconsin avenues. In Montgomery County, residents of Bethesda and Chevy Chase also reported hearing loud and unexplained detonations.

The confusion was heightened by the fact that many persons who heard the noise were shielded by trees and topography from seeing the fireworks bursts.

The fireworks display was provided by the Zambelli firm, an organization prominent in the world of pyrotechnics, which put on the fireworks at the Mall last July 4, and which has put on many previous such displays here.