Fire Alarm Boxes–where are they now? In the old days, with wooden houses built close together, and lit by whale oil or gas jets, the threat of fire was constant and very great. Thus, the fire department as well as the police department had boxes. Police boxes were colored blue, and fire alarm boxes colored red and both operated similarly, via telegraphy, before the public phone system was thought sufficiently reliable to entrust with life-and-death matters. A citizen broke the glass cover and pulled a little hook, which telegraphed the box location to the authorities.
The installation apparently began in in the 1880s. At the time, few people had telephones, and many fires were reported by children or neighbors that ran to the fire station to report a fire. The system was seen as a great step forward in bringing safety and security to all citizens. The alarm transmitter consisted of copper wire mounted in a glass case with a nickel frame, which received calls from public alarm boxes and relayed them via telegraph lines to the nearest fire station. This informed the station manager exactly which alarm box had been rung — but did not provide any information on the nature of the emergency.
Photo taken from the Carleton Place Directory 1930’s- courtesy of the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage
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