RUMFORD — Just when selectmen are considering eliminating fire call boxes to save money, firefighters responded to two within an hour of each other Wednesday morning.

One came at 8:46 a.m. from a master box at the town office, fire Chief Robert Chase said early Wednesday afternoon. That came into the fire station as a system malfunction on the part of the town office and not the box itself, he said.

The other, at 9:38 a.m., was for a small fire at the Linnell Motel at 196 Prospect Ave. It burned itself out before firefighters from Rumford and Mexico arrived, Chase said.

“One came in as a system malfunction and the other was an actual fire, which is interesting that we had one of each when it’s on the table,” Chase said.

The Linnell Motel fire happened after a tenant left for the morning. Chase said he believes residual heat from a cooking stove ignited and burned the handle off a pot on the stove, smoking up the room and setting off a smoke detector, which, in turn, triggered a master alarm box in the motel.

When firefighters arrived, they found the stove off. Additionally, because the small fire didn’t generate enough heat, the room’s sprinkler system wasn’t activated, Chase said.

At their Dec. 3 meeting, selectmen took up the issue of possibly eliminating Rumford’s 74 call boxes, 50 of which are street boxes and 24 are master boxes.

“Most of our fire call box calls come in from our master boxes, which monitor fire alarm systems in commercial buildings, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, etc.,” Chase said last week at the station. “It tells us there’s a problem and sends us out there.”

From Jan. 1 to Dec. 8, Chase said the department has responded to 19 box alarms:

• Three were attributed to schoolchildren possibly acting maliciously.

• One was at a school where a child may have acted maliciously.

• Ten were unintentional activations, which Chase said may have been from smoke detectors or burnt toast.

• Three were from actual smoke detectors, “something more than burnt toast,” like possible electrical fires, Chase said.

• Two were sprinkler activations set off by broken pipes.

Despite the low call box usage numbers, Chase said the majority of calls come in from industrial facilities where the master boxes are located, like the hospital and commercial buildings, all of which rent the devices from the town.

If selectmen did away with these call box fire alarm systems, then these places would have to invest in a dial system, he added.

The red call boxes on streets that allow people to call for help in emergencies could be phased out through attrition when they break down, but Chase said he believes Rumford must keep its 24 master-box system in place.

A motion made by Selectman Mark Belanger at the Dec. 3 meeting to not replace fire call boxes when they fail, and to remove them from the poles, was defeated 3-2 by Selectmen Greg Buccina, Jeff Sterling and Chairman Brad Adley. Belanger and DiConzo voted for the motion.

At the board’s 7 p.m. meeting Thursday, Dec. 17, Chase is to provide the board with a requested report on the town’s fire call boxes.

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