The Boston Fire Department reports firefighters were summoned to a fire at 94 Endicott St. in the North End around 5:14 a.m. by a resident who thought to use a street fire-alarm box when calling 911 from a phone didn't work - from the same location where the world's first ever municipal fire-box alarm was pulled in 1852.
The department reports firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze. The resident had to use a call box because of ongoing national problems that have wreaked havoc with 911 systems.
The resident used a box at Cooper and Endicott streets known as Box 1212. According to the Boston Fire Historical Society, that location was the site of the first ever fire alarm signaled by a street box, for a fire around 8:25 p.m. on April 29, 1852 - just one day after Boston turned on the world's first municipal fire-box system.
The city's street fire-box system still uses the same basic mechanism as employed in the 1852 boxes: A spring-based system inside the box generates Morse Code-like signals to a central alarm station that indicate the box's number, and so its location, without the need for fancy electronics or even an external power supply. The fire-alarm office has been located in the Fenway since 1925.
William Channing, MD, and Moses Farmer, an electrical engineer, developed the system that now includes some 1,250 street boxes. They obtained a patent for their work in 1857.