Fire at CenturyLink building in Swanville leaves residents without phone service

Technicians working around the clock to restore service

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor 

CenturyLink technicians are working around the clock to restore phone sevice to residents in Swanville, after a fire destroyed the equipment inside the CenturyLink building on Third Street, taking down phone service in the area. The Swanville Fire Department and deputies from the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office manned the Fire Hall throughout the night and into the next day, making themselves available with a portable phone to residents without phone service who needed to make a call, especially in the case of an emergency. The fire is thought to have originated with a lithium battery, said Carrie Amann, public relations person with CenturyLink.

CenturyLink technicians are working around the clock to restore phone sevice to residents in Swanville, after a fire destroyed the equipment inside the CenturyLink building on Third Street, taking down phone service in the area. The Swanville Fire Department and deputies from the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office manned the Fire Hall throughout the night and into the next day, making themselves available with a portable phone to residents without phone service who needed to make a call, especially in the case of an emergency. The fire is thought to have originated with a lithium battery, said Carrie Amann, public relations person with CenturyLink.

Swanville city residents found themselves without phone service beginning Wednesday afternoon, when a fire destroyed all of the equipment in the CenturyLink building.

Swanville Fire Chief Jerry Hollermann said 15 firefighters responded to the call at 3:10 p.m., and had the fire under control within an hour.

But the problem of no phone service remained an issue.

Because of lack of phone service, Hollermann and Morrison County Sheriff’s deputies stationed themselves at the Swanville Fire Hall with portable phones to assist anyone who needed to make a call.

The biggest concern was for those who might need to make an emergency call to 911, he said.

“We tag-teamed with the firefighters,” said Morrison County Sheriff Deputy Tom Ploof.

Hollermann said he was at the Fire Hall until 10 p.m., and a deputy remained all night with another taking over in the morning.

Royal Loven, owner of Loven’s Auto Center in Swanville, said he was on a wrecker call and when he returned about 4 p.m. he could see smoke billowing across Third Street a couple of blocks east of his business.

“I didn’t think it was the telephone building,” he said, but that a fire had broken out  at a home where wood was burned.

Loven discovered that not only did his home phone or shop phone not work, but neither would his credit card machine. His cell phone reception was poor as well. He said to call his mother-in-law to check on her he had to drive to County Road 12 near Pillsbury, located on a hill, to make the call.

Carrie Amann, in the CenturyLink Public Relations Department, said CenturyLink had a plan in place to notify residents in the case of such an event.

“We work with the local authorities to make sure we can get the word out that the phones aren’t working,” she said. “We let them know where to call or where to go in event of an emergency.”

CenturyLink technicians discovered the fire at about 3 p.m., when an alarm inside the building sounded.

“We’ve got a big group that works behind the scenes, a conference bridge where people dial in with updates,” said Amann. “That person called the sheriff, who then works with local deputies.”

Amann said the fire shouldn’t have affected cell phone service in the area, since CenturyLink doesn’t provide cell phone service, but works through other cell service providers.

Techniciains continue to work to replace the equipment, which was burned to a point that it cannot be reused, said Amann.

There is no estimated time of repair, she said.

“We can’t thank our technicians enough,” Amann said. “They have been working around the clock to figure out solutions. We have a great local team there.”

When phones are again in service, CenturyLink will get in touch with residents, through signs, flyers and the local media.

Amann said only residents in the city of Swanville have been affected.

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