Reactivation of fire sirens in Mitchell under review

Link to article: Reactivation of fire sirens in Mitchell under review
Mitchell Advocate

After nearly a decade of silence, the fire siren in Mitchell could be reactivated in the not too distant future.

Coun. Mike Tam made a notice of motion at the April 3rd council meeting that the municipality “direct staff to prepare a report on the reinstatement of the fire department siren.”

During discussion, Coun. Tam referred to a near mishap he witnessed a couple of Saturdays ago in downtown Mitchell when a volunteer firefighter – responding to a fire call – almost hit a young pedestrian en route to the fire hall. Coun. Tam felt that if the fire siren had activated as it once did, residents would have been warned and to be on the lookout for firefighters both on their way to the fire hall and fire emergency vehicles en route to a call.

“I really thought that a siren downtown would have made people aware of what was going on,” he said.

He added he’s had people from time to time point out to him how they miss hearing the fire siren, especially downtown, for that very reason.

“I agree with Mike, we need to have that siren back in town,” said Coun. Larry Wight, who’s lobbied in the past to at least investigate having it back to warn residents of a potential weather watch or emergency.

It was almost a decade ago that then West Perth fire Chief Walt Anderson lobbied for the municipality to silence the fire warning siren, feeling that the number of people who “chased” the fire trucks to a call was getting out of hand and actually hindered the firefighters from doing their job.

Coun. Tam said he understood why council back in the day took away the siren but with social media now people still find out where the calls are just as fast as the firefighters themselves and still some are curious enough to follow.

In the fall of 2008, West Perth council passed a motion that the siren be used to warn the public of major emergencies at the discretion of the emergency co-ordinator as well as keep the weekly warning siren test of Fridays at 1 p.m. The practice was never implemented, however, and the sirens were silenced for good.

A siren at Parmalat was also synchronized with the one at the fire hall, to warn the east side of Mitchell, but no word whether that too is under consideration.

Fire Chief Bill Hunter was asked to prepare the report. He did say Perth East still operate sirens while other municipalities do not.

“Everybody’s got different needs,” Chief Hunter said. “There are different uses for the sirens….they aren’t specifically for fires.”

Further discussion revolved around the flashing green lights the volunteer firefighters have in their vehicle, with Coun. Tam noting that the average resident isn’t aware enough of what it means.

According to the Highway Traffic Act, the green flashing light is merely a courtesy light so when others operating a motor vehicle see them, they are asking for the right of way they are not demanding it, Chief Hunter explained.

“It doesn’t give you any special privileges at all,” he said.

<back to Headlines