Building burns to the ground because of no Cellphone Service

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A small rural town in the Midwest has no cellphone signal at all. Last week I was driving thru that town and developed vehicle problems, late at night. The only businesses that might have been open that late would have been taverns, but they were closed.
I grabbed my cell intending to call a friend to come help me, but I got "NO SERVICE". I grabbed my tools, popped open the hood, and began trying to find the problem. That's when I noticed smoke coming across the roof of a restaurant building. At first I thought it was just a chimney from a wood stove or something like that, and the smoke was just rolling across the roof. (It was cold that night). But just to be sure, I grabbed my flashlight and walked over to the building and looked around. I saw no flames, so I just assumed it was a chimney, but I could not see any chimney either, since the smoke was covering my view of the roof, with only a flashlight.
I went back to working on my car, and occasionally looked at that roof. The smoke seemed to be getting less, so I just figured it was just a chimney. One and a half hours later I was able to find the car problem, which was repairable and did not require any new parts to get home (corroded electrical connection). I got my car running, and looked at that building one more time, and still saw no flames or sign of any actual fire. I was tired and glad to have my car running again, and I drove home, knowing that the next day I'd do a more permanent repair on my car.
The next morning I went to the auto parts store to get what I needed, and told the guy how I had gotten stranded in that small town last night. He said "did you see the huge fire there?" I asked what burned. He said the restaurant burned to the ground. I later found that someone called in the fire about 3 hours after I initially saw the smoke. I nearly became sick to my stomach after he told me.
Normally, I would have called 911 and suggested that they come and check that building, and told them I dont see any actual fire, but it looks suspicious. But I could not use my cellphone to make the call. If I had seen an actual fire, I would have banged on house doors and hopefully woke someone up, but I did not want to wake someone up because of smoke coming from a chimney.
Ive felt sort of sick about this ever since, but even more angry because that town has no means of calling for help in an emergency. Until 3 or 4 years ago, there was a payphone there, but that's now gone. So, to make myself feel better, I called the phone company and asked them why the payphone was removed. They said payphones are obsolete. I did not hold back when I said "OBSOLETE MY ASS, WHEN THERE IS NO CELLPHONE SERVICE THERE. THERE WAS ALREADY A BUILDING LOST, MUST SOMEONE DIE BEFORE SOMETHING IS DONE?". I told the same thing to the sheriffs and fire chief when I told them what I saw.
We supposedly have all this high technology these days. We have all these laws to protect us from every damn thing, such as seatbelt laws, smoking restrictions, product alerts over lead, and all sorts of other toxics, and the list goes on. But are we really any safer? Maybe the big cities are, but not these rural areas. They are worse off than they used to be. There is no excuse that payphone can not still be there. Who cares if it's obsolete. It's NOT OBSOLETE when that is all that can be used in a town like that.
Anyhow, I do not and will not accept that answer. I have now contacted some of the top politicians in the state and county, and will continue to persue this until something is done. I was told they plan to install a cellphone tower, but I found that was planned 4 years ago, and nothing has been done. I said, "even if they do eventually build a cell tower, what happens until then?" JUST PUT THE DAMN PAYPHONE BACK! I'm sure the phone companies have lots of unused payphones, and all it takes is a half hour of time and a few screws and some wire to connect it. Why is that so difficult??????
By the way, the fire began in the attic and was caused by electrical issues. Becase of a metal roof, it remained concealed.
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On 10/15/2015 03:47 PM, snipped-for-privacy@none.com wrote:

One reason the telcos got out of the payphone business was that Obamacrats were constantly breaking into them.
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On 10/15/2015 02:47 PM, snipped-for-privacy@none.com wrote:

<sniped for brevity>
If you saw smoke but did not see a chimney (or it was not coming from one) you obviously made a serious error.
Too late now.
I've sometimes seen gas stations in small towns with an emergency 911 phone on the outside.
The good news is no one got hurt and chances are even before the entire building burned to the ground...the internal damage was extensive and the smoke damage alone probably would have rendered the building and it's contents as condemned.
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On Thursday, October 15, 2015 at 4:53:55 PM UTC-4, philo wrote:

in 1985 the company i worked for closed. it was a tough time. i had worked their for nearly 10 years, my first job.
one night i drove by the building, noted that a traffic signal red light was burned out. i had my very first cell phone........
i knew the police went up and down that street constantly. so i didnt call 911 about the non working red light.
the next night a lady died there, apprently no one reported it.
so now i report all safety hazards......
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On 10/15/2015 08:53 PM, bob haller wrote:

Yep
One day I was driving and just saw a stop sign down.
Knew it was unsafe but not necessarily an emergency... but how to find the right number to call?
I decided to call 911 and report it... turns out that was the right thing to do.
One lesson I learned long ago :
err on the side of caution
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On 10/16/2015 12:03 AM, philo wrote:

That is good advice. There might not be a HUGE chance of some thing going wrong, but the "go wrong" can be lethal or hospital grade.
- . Christopher A. Young learn more about Jesus . www.lds.org . .
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On Thursday, October 15, 2015 at 4:53:55 PM UTC-4, philo wrote:

I wouldn't have called 911 initially either. But in a situation like that, if it looked unusual I would have gotten a better look at where the smoke was coming from, like he did. And then if it still seemed odd, I couldn't see the source of where it was coming from was a chimney, I would have knocked on someone's door to call 911. Also if you can get a whiff of the smoke, that can be probative too....
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So it appears having a cellphone wouldn't have made a difference.
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I had a cellphone, but no service. There is no cell service in that town at all. Had I called when I first saw smoke, it could have made a big difference. The Fire Dept arrived over 2 hours later. I would have called 911 and told them I see smoke and maybe someone should check it out. But with no cell service and a broken car, there was nothing I could do. Actually, the nearest cell service is several miles away, and that is a very poor signal.
I could, and probably should have knocked on doors and hopefully woken someone up (it was 2am). But waking someone up, if it was just a smoking chinmey was like "crying wolf". However, in the future, if I ever see something like that again, I will be knocking on doors. I wont chance it anymore. I'm just glad no one was hurt or worse in that fire.
It's too late for that building, but I just spoke to someone from the F.D.a little while ago. The Fire Dept had a meeting and they all agree something has to be done. Much because I made a huge fuss about this matter since the fire occurred. He said the only real option is to have a payphone reinstalled, until a cell tower is built, (if they ever do). He told me that one of their volunteer firemen works for the telco and he fully agrees with this assesment, and that volunteers said he will get a payphone installed no matter what it takes. That's reassuring!
Sometimes it pays to make a huge fuss about something like this, even if it comes too late for that restaurant. Getting that payphone may save a life or other property in the future.
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through small (under 500 population) towns frequently. The pay phones were just a little box hanging on the pole in some. Only one had the traditional phone booth. Finding a phone in the dark would be problematic. Can one call 911 free from these phones? Will there be signs saying so? I think Nebraska has a law requiring the phone company to keep one pay phone in each town. Remember Lily Tomlin?
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On Fri, 16 Oct 2015 06:05:04 -0500, "Dean Hoffman"

I guess we'll see how visible it is when they install it.

I thought all payphones had free 911 calls..... When they were still around, they were a free call to 911, at least in my part of the country.

I fully agree and would support this law. Even if there IS cell service, not everyone has a cellphone, and batteries go dead, and so on....
The town where this fire occurred is not the only place in this county that dont have cell service, and no pay phones either. For now, I'm just working to get a payphone in that town, but once that occurs, I'm sort of planning to suggest getting one in all the "No cell service" towns in this county, and maybe statewide. But one small step at a time.
I should mention that I was once in another nearby state, and pulled into a gas station in a small town. It was the only gas station in town, and it had what looked like a payphone, but a really odd looking phone, with no push buttons or rotary dial. When I went inside to pay for my gas, I asked the clerk what kind of that payphone it is. She said it ONLY calls 911. Just lift the handpiece, push the red button on the side, and 911 answers. She said it's the only one in town. Before I left, I walked over to it, and it had instructions on it. That's a great idea, but I'd prefer a complete payphone, since not all emergencies require 911. For example, a flat tire is really not a 911 emergency, if there is a friend or other family member to call.

What does she have to do with this? Explain!
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She played Ernestine the telephone operator on Rowan and Martin's Laugh In show.
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On 10/16/2015 7:05 AM, Dean Hoffman wrote:

Years ago, I heard that a cell phone with no paid contract (the old one that I used to use....) will call 911, even if I can't make regular calls cause I don't have a paid carrier. Well, if there is a working cell tower within range.
Decided to test the information. I got my old cell which no longer had contract or paid service. Dialed 911 (I'm in area with good cell signal from the towers). A couple seconds later, a voice from far away answered. I could barely hear, probably operator with the microphone pointed towards her adams apple. I explained what I was doing, and the reason for the call, cell phone test. She asked my name and phone number, and I answered honestly. Asked where I was, and I also answered honestly. About half hour later, two cops arrived at my place to check on me. We chatted for a while, and I told them what was going on. Offered to show them the phone I'd used (which was now in the back of my van). I apologized several times for wasting thier time.
Since that time, I've kept an old cell phone in my vehicle, with battery and car charger. Would have done no good in the case of the restaurant fire, but some day I may use it to report a fire in a cell signal area.
- . Christopher A. Young learn more about Jesus . www.lds.org . .
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On Saturday, October 17, 2015 at 7:20:49 AM UTC-4, Stormin Mormon wrote:

IMO, that is a real problem that should be looked into to see if there is a reasonable solution. There is no way to know if 911 works before you need it. And today people think they are connected all kinds of ways, via God knows how many different VOIP systems, for example. They have you register your address for 911 service, but who knows if that is actually in there correctly, gets to where it needs to go when you make a 911 call, etc.
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There was a time I had a cell phone I kept in my truck. 90s. Most all the older phones had antenna jacks to get better service. I think my motorola razr still had one. Of course I still have on star in the truck, which has external antenna. Havnt tried to call m truck lately, but have no current paid minutes.
Greg
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On Friday, October 16, 2015 at 12:20:04 AM UTC-4, snipped-for-privacy@none.com wrote:

No, it's not. Crying wolf is defined as "To raise a false alarm, to ask for assistance when you don't need it, and by extension, to exaggerate or lie."
If this incident is true (What town was this in?) then you had a legitimate concern and would not have been "crying wolf" if you had woken people up. Would it have been crying wolf if you had been able to call 911 via your cell or a pay phone? If a bar had been open and you reported it there, would it have been crying wolf? No, in both cases.

Installed where? Just how small is this town? If they put it by the restaurant that burnt down and a fire starts on another street, would someone "passing through" know where to find the pay phone?
BTW...I hope this volunteer/telco employee is high enough in the food chain to be able to "get a payphone installed no matter what it takes".
It not as simple as "a half hour of time and a few screws and some wire to connect it." Someone has to maintain it, replace it when it's vandalized, monitor it, inventory it, etc. If it's going to be a one-off pay-phone, i.e. the telco has no other pay phones is service, it's not going to be a simple task to get it authorized and installed.

Let us know if it ever gets installed. I'll be very surprised if it does.
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On Friday, October 16, 2015 at 8:07:45 AM UTC-4, DerbyDad03 wrote:

Can you even get a new pay phone installed anywhere, anymore? The economics must be horrific and in a small town like that, how much a month are they going to collect? Seems more logical to try to get cell phone service installed. Twenty five years ago in business I was using them all the time. Today, can't remember the last time I used one, but it's been many years. Around here, you don't even see the outside kind much. I guess they still have them at WaWa or 711, but they sure aren't as common as they once were.
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On Friday, October 16, 2015 at 8:18:52 AM UTC-4, trader_4 wrote:

That's what I meant when I said "I hope this volunteer/telco employee is high enough in the food chain to be able to *get a payphone installed no matter what it takes*.
"what it takes" could be the downfall of that endeavor.

There is a 25 mile stretch of I-87 through the Adirondacks in NY where cell phone service is spotty. Every 2 miles along the Northway there is a call box, reminiscent of the call boxes that used be along the highways and byways of old.
You never have to walk more than a 1 mile to get to one, assuming you remember where the last one you passed was. I used to drive that stretch of road a few times a year when my daughter went to SUNY Plattsburgh. Most times I had service all the way through, but there were times when it did indeed drop out for short distances.
I tried a few times to keep track of each call box to see if I would know which way to walk if my car broke down, but it's really easy to get distracted and lose track of where the last one was. One time I noted the mile market of the first one, so I could use that as an estimate of where the next one should be. Luckily I never had to test either of my methods.
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On 10/16/2015 8:07 AM, DerbyDad03 wrote:

A big cloud of smoke over a building in the middle of the night. I'd call that a very real concern.
We also don't know what season of the year. July and cloud of smoke .... wake people. February and snow on the ground "could" be a wood burning stove.
- . Christopher A. Young learn more about Jesus . www.lds.org . .
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On 10/15/2015 11:17 PM, snipped-for-privacy@none.com wrote:
<snip>

That's what life is all about. Learning what to do in situations that will never occur again :)
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