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The Billerica Board of Fire Engineers signed a contract with the Gamewell Fire Alarm Co. on March 17, 1915 to install a system which included 5 1/2 miles of  #10 gage iron wire to be placed on poles from the N.E. Telephone office on Andover Road to the Boston & Maine car shops in North Billerica as well as a Transmitter Box with 14 signal disks, a steam whistle and box #321 at the B&M Shops.

The system was completed on December 1, 1915 and the 1st alarm was sounded for box #41 on December 22nd, 1915 for a chimmey fire at the Dugaw House in South Billerica.  Fire Alarms were sounded from the transmitter box in the Telephone Office by operators. Alarms were sounded, 4 rounds with 1-1 as the all out signal. 2-2-2-2 was sounded for no school. 3-3-3 followed by a box number indicated brush or grass fires.

On December 6, 1916 a Bell Striker was placed on the bell of the Uniterian Church in Billerica Center, by L.W. Bills of Lexington, Mass.   On December 15, 1916 the First Alarm was sounded using the Bell Striker for Box 24.

On Febuary 8, 1918 a Bell Striker was placed on the bell at the Talbot Mill, in North Billerica, also by L.W. Bills of Lexington Mass.  On completion of the new Firehouse in Billerica Center,  the transmitter was transferred to the station and the telephone operators were relieved of this duty.   On this date, Mr. Edward Thommen went on duty as the first permenant Firefighter. Throughout the 20's and 30 's, over 20 street boxes and 40 transmitter wheels were added to the system. Over the past 60 years, the Fire Alarm system has grown to over 350 Master Boxes connected by over 100 miles of wire strung by the members of this fire department.

The Fire Alarm Communications Office has been aptly termed the "nerve center of the fire department".   Not a wheel turns in response to an alarm for a fire or an emergency,  until an alarm has been received and the appropriate assistance has been dispatched.  In addition to the important work of dispatching alarms, the fire alarm communications office is the operations center of the department it serves. In the event of fire or other emergency requiring certain and fast response by fire department units, citizens may summon such assistance either by pulling a fire alarm box or by calling an emergency telephone number. After they have done either, they expect, and rightly so, the arrival of help in a minimum of time. The average citizen is neither interested in, nor concerned with what takes place between his call for help and the arrival of apparatus, except he or she wants assistance without delay.

The Fire Alarm Office sets in motion the machinery which produces response of the required units to the specified location. Fast and faultless action by this office contributes materially to the subsequent success of firefighting or emergency operations. A fire department could not function effectively without proper communications and since the Fire Alarm Communications Center represents "communications" it is a vital and essential part in the overall picture of firefighting and emergency operations, as well as the office where other emergency services such as police, or fire mutal aid cities are monitored, and from which direct communications are maintained with these agencies. The Fire Alarm Communications Center is the only agency within the fire department completely aware, at any given instant, of overall conditions in the entire Town.  

Today, the fire Alarm office receives over 95,000 phone calls a year for service and general business of the Department.  Last year,  Fire Alarm handled 5,400 emergency calls.


Page Last Updated: Dec 12, 2011 (15:06:32)
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