Two months ago, it seemed everyone in the District was passing the doors of Engine Company No. 8 in Southeast Washington -- from TV crews to Mayor Marion Barry to curious residents -- wanting to see a controversial sign that had the fire department logo emblazoned with a hog's head.
Things have quieted down since then, but the firefighters hope they will not remain quiet for long. On March 17, the sign, a tribute to the Washington Redskins during the pro football playoffs, will be raffled off, with proceeds going to charity. The firehouse is alive with a postseason burst of Redskins fever.
The 4-by-7-foot red and yellow sign, hung to show pride that the firehouse is first to respond to any emergencies at RFK Stadium, became a cause celebre when fire department officials ordered it removed from the front of the firehouse the day of the Redskins' loss to Chicago in the NFC semifinal playoff game.
It was ordered rehung after Barry, calling himself "chief booster of the Redskins," visited the station and told firefighters he would try to arrange for its continued display.
After the Super Bowl, the sign was banished once more, and today it sits in the Redskins' locker room, where players are autographing it before it is raffled.
Firefighters at Engine 8 have printed 50,000 raffle tickets that are available at local fire stations for $1 a piece in preparation for the St. Patrick's Day drawing at their station, 1520 C St. SE.
The raffle is "a concerted effort by firefighters to help our community," said Capt. Clifton Dowey, who also noted that many county fire departments have purchased blocks of tickets to sell.
Dowey said proceeds will be donated to the Burn Center at Washington Hospital Center, which treats about 300 burn patients a year.
Dr. Marion H. Jordan, director of the Burn Center, said he was "tickled to death that the firefighters would think of us." He said the money will be used to fund continuing research projects in such areas as antibiotic therapy and pain control using nonnarcotic medication.
The Hogettes, a group of male Redskins fans who, wearing dresses and baseball caps to which pigs' snouts and ears are attached, help raise money for charities, will be on hand for the 2 p.m. drawing. They have helped line up other prizes from Budweiser, Pepsi and the Stadium Sports Store in Wheaton, according to "Grandpaw Hogette" Ralph J. Campbell.
He said the Redskins will present an autographed football to the local firehouse that sells the most raffle tickets.
In addition to being available at firehouses, tickets can be purchased by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope and a check or money order, payable to the Washington Burn Unit Benefit, to P.O. Box 3195, Landover Hills, Md. 20784.