End of an era: Fire boxes extinguished | TheUnion.com

End of an era: Fire boxes extinguished

The pull boxes that have served as downtown Grass Valley’s fire alarm system since the 1940s will be taken out of service, the City Council decided Tuesday night.

The 160 red boxes that are a common sight on sidewalks, walls, and telephone poles may still be “hot,” but not for much longer now that approval has been granted to retire the system, said Fire Chief Hank Weston.

Some pull boxes will remain, however, adorned with brass plaques with dates of service to remember the era of Grass Valley’s history when pull boxes were commonly used and volunteers comprised the fire department.

Others will be sold to interested members of the public with proceeds going toward establishing a fire department museum or refurbishing an antique fire truck.

“We have to find places to put them, whether they are in a museum or in people’s homes. I’d love to see a museum for the fire department,” said Vice Mayor Mark Johnson.

With a going rate of between $150 to $200 apiece, this could generate up to $30,000, Weston said. At least a few residents are already interested in buying them, including Councilwoman Patti Ingram.

“I do want to be on the list to buy one,” she said Tuesday.

Weston had been prompted to ask the City Council to decide whether to fix the system or decommission it because several boxes no longer work, wires are worn, and the city’s cost to repair it carries a weighty price tag.

Not only that, but “the advent of telephones, cell phones have changed (the need). Most all our calls come in from 911,” he said.

“Everything is tied to the 911 system, not to the pull box system.”

The fire department receives several false alarms each year, due to malfunctions in the system or because of people pulling pranks.

The last time a pull box was legitimately used was in 1994 when a resident ran to the fire department near Minnie Park to alert firefighters to a structure fire. Failing to get their attention because they were asleep, the resident pulled on the box that was outside the fire department, Weston said.

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