Fire Alarm History

BILLERICA FIRE ALARM

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.

In 1939 the department recieved and installed its first radio system consisting of a transmitter installed at fire department headquaters, and a mobile radio in the chief”s car.

During the 1940’s and 1950’s the department expanded the radio system to include all mobile radios in all apparatus.

During the 1970’s the department purchased the first portable radio used by the department.

The 1980’s saw the relocation of fire headquaters from 407 Boston Road to the new headquaters located at 8 Good Street, and the installation of a new solid state fire alarm system and a digital receiving system, along with computerized dispatch capabilities.

The 1990’s saw the installation of 5.4 miles of figure eight cable to expand the backbone of the alarm system and the replacement of 10 miles of cable , and the installation of digital receiving equipment in all sub stations, to include a Zetron tone and voice station alerting system.

In 2001 the department overhauled the existing telephone system to include a speed dialing system,voice mail, caller ID and installed a direct link with the police department.

In 2002 the department installed a new radio system to include a primary transmitter located on the bear hill water tower a backup transmitter located at fire headquaters, the installation of three satellite receivers located on cell towers in town.

In 2003 the Billerica Fire department and Westford Fire department built and installed the district six fire mutual aid radio system, to include four transmitters and three satellite receivers located in Westford, Grotton,Wilmington, Chelmsford, Ayer, Dracut, and Billerica. the network connects eighteen cities and towns in north Middlesex County.

In 2004 the department expanded the radio system to include better coverage for the police department.

In 2005 the department began work with the Billerica Water Department and Engineering Department on plans for maintenance on our water storage tanks located at Tower Farm Road and Locke Road tanks. The fire department responsibility was to design and construct new radio facility’s for all town departments.

In 2006 the department began design on a radio scada system (supervisory control and data acquisition) for the water and waste water departments to replace existing telephone lines. The water system includes telemetry for the water intake system, Tower Farm and Locke Road water storage tanks and the Fox Hill water lift station. The system went on line in the spring of 2007. The waste water system is still under construction but when completed will control twenty six lift stations.

In 2007 Construction began on the Tower Farm water tank, a new hardened shelter was purchased along with a backup generator, and antenna mounting system was added along with welded wave guide system and new antennas were installed. Construction was completed in October 2007. However due to the installtion of a new fiber optic cable system it was not completed until April 2008.

In 2008 Construction began on a state of the art fiber optic cable system linking all Schools, Fire stations, Police department, Town hall, Water dept, Cemetary dept. Highway dept, Recreation dept, Council on aging, Library, and radio systems. The System went live in April 2008.

In 2009 Construction began on the Locke Road water tower all antennas were removed and the tank was sand blasted and painted inside and out, a welding wave guide system has been installed , a new antenna mount with new antennas will be installed shortly.

Toady 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.

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