to 1864, there was no system to the fire alarm. A fire would
simply be seen, and then reported via a bell located downtown.
Needless to say, this system was not very effective in extinguishing
and preventing the growth of fires. In 1863, the idea of implementing
fireboxes was introduced by David Scannell, and in 1864, San
Francisco installed its first set of boxes. The city spent
$24,000 to furnish the entire city with boxes . However, it
wasn’t until 1865 that the boxes were actually put to
use. The city installed two separate kinds of alarms. Crank
boxes were the most common box used.
The instructions for use were as follows:
Upon the discovery of a fire near your
signal box, turn the crank slowly and steadily about 25
or 30 times, then wait a few moments, and, if you hear no
ticking in the box, or alarm on the bells, turn as before.
If you still near no alarm, go to the next box and given
the alarm from that. Never open the box or touch the crank,
except in case of fire. Never signal for a fire seen at
a distance. Be sure your box is locked before leaving it.