MAHANOY CITY, Pa. — "So all you do is just pull this down," said Mahanoy City Fire Chief Dan Markiewicz, as he shows Newswatch 16 what it was like to call 911 during the World War One era, alerting fire companies with a flick of a switch.
"Back in the coal region hay day, every community had their own fire alarm system, the Gamewell System as it's referred to now. There's only less than a dozen in the state of Pennsylvania. Three being in Schuylkill County: Mahanoy City, Tamaqua, and the city of Pottsville still have active Gamewell fire systems," Markiewicz added.
But starting Thursday, the 25 fire alarm boxes in Mahanoy City will no longer be active.
"Due to the components of the system where they are housed, those buildings are being demolished, so the system needs a new home. So the system will be in storage. In the meantime, until a new home is found, hopefully, in the near future, the components of the system will be worked on. And when reinstalled, the components in the system will come back better than it was originally," explained Markiewicz.
As a 911 operator himself, Fire Chief Markiewicz says these fire alarm boxes could still come in handy.
"The elderly population in the community that grew up here. All their lives, they were born and raised in the community, and from growing up here, they know where offhand, through memory, where those fire alarm boxes are. So God forbid they would have an emergency they would know where to go to activate one," he said.
And until they find a new home for the 100-year-old system, residents should not rely on the fire alarm boxes for emergencies.
"For now, until the boxes are back in service, they will be sealed off, and they'll be a sticker on them notifying that the boxes are inactive and, in event of an emergency, call 911," said Markiewicz.
Mahanoy City has plans to find a new home for the fire alarm system and to fully restore the fire alarm boxes in 2023.
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