I am taking a short break from writing about horses, writing or reading. I have two posts on Firefighters to share. Today, the Cloverdale Fire District celebrates their 130th anniversary.
Let’s hope you never have to use the services of your local fire department. —Robin
The following is a guest post written by my husband, Kevin Moore. “Thank you, Sweetie!”
Blow the Siren!
by Kevin Moore
In the movies, it’s not uncommon for a panicky character to yell out, “Call 911” to emphasize the scene. If that movie was set in Cloverdale, before 1995, the character might have yelled, “Blow the Siren, Blow the Siren!”
Before cell phones and the 911 system, the signal of a real emergency in Cloverdale was the sound of the town’s fire sirens cycling on and off four times. When these WWII air raid fire sirens sounded, the volunteer firefighters responded to the station, jumped into protective clothing and climbed aboard the fire engines.
Everyone from the town’s dogs to the tourists driving on Highway 101, (that ran through the middle of Cloverdale,) reacted to the sound of the fire siren. It was said that the dogs were much less traumatized than the out of town drivers waiting in line for the town’s one traffic light to turn green when the massive sirens activated.
The Siren Blows Again.
The Cloverdale Fire District is planning to activate one of the sirens for the first time in 20 plus years as a symbolic remembrance of former firefighters, as part of the department’s 130th anniversary celebration.
The district’s Roger Fletcher and Kagan Davis are having fun restoring the 650 pound former air raid siren, but it is clear they are having more fun hearing the public’s stories that relate to the fire siren. Within a few days, the video on the Volunteer Firefighters’ Facebook page of them testing the siren motor for just a few seconds, had over two thousand views.
We asked about fire siren stories and came up with a couple to share:
We Dropped the Siren!
85 year old Tom Gurries, longtime fire volunteer and former city worker warned the firefighters that, “The fire siren is a lot heavier than it looks.” To emphasize the point, Tom told them, “I should know, I was there the day we dropped it on the city hall roof.”
Gurries then enlightened them with the story of how the city crew was installing the siren on top of city hall. The city was always trying to save money and wouldn’t rent a crane, so they used a long pole and a tractor to pick up the tower and move it to the roof.
“The tractor tires kept coming off the ground and scared us all to death. The boss gave the orders to keep moving, and finally over she went, right onto the roof.” Gurries told the firefighters, “We didn’t know if we should go look through the windows to see if the siren was laying inside the building or climb on the roof to see how bad the damage was. Luckily, the siren only dented the roof and the all the damage was repairable.
Stick the Scissors in the Siren or In Case of Fire – Remove Scissors
Joe Miller, a long time Cloverdale police and fire dispatcher recalled how the dispatcher had a fire alarm pull boxes, just like those found in a school, which activated the sirens.
Late one night a caller reported a house fire. Just as Miller pulled the alarm box handle, the reporting party realized they had made an error and there was no fire. Joe was faced with a dilemma. If he let go of the handle the town’s four fire sirens would wake everyone in town.
Thinking quickly, he reached for a nearby pair of scissors and jammed them in the alarm box handle. Slowly he released the handle and kept adjusting the scissors until they held the alarm handle in place.
Miller, well known for his wit, covered the sign that said, “Pull Handle for Fire” with a handwritten sign that read, “In Case of Fire – Remove Scissors.”
For weeks Joe worried that someone would bump the scissors or they would just slip out in the middle of the night and wake everyone. Finally it was decided that they would remove the scissors when all the fire volunteers attended a training session at the fire house.
The “Pull the Scissors” event gave the firefighters a chance to thank the dispatchers, and Joe was presented a cake with a huge pair of scissors on top.
Remember the Siren?
A large number of people tell about remembering the fire siren as a kid, and how their parents would go outside to look for the fire. Everyone agrees, you didn’t sleep through the siren when they went off in the middle of the night.
A surprising amount of people say they miss the noon siren test every day.
When I was Your Age
Fire Battalion Chief Rick Blackmon said, “I think some parents and maybe some grandparents are going to drag the kids out to hear the siren blow again, just so they can say, ‘I told you it was loud and when I was your age it blew for every fire.’” Blackmon said with a big grin, “To us, it’s a tribute to 130 years of volunteers. We are saluting our past members, but it’s going to be fun.”
If you have a siren story, the volunteers want to hear from you. If you want to be part of the next siren story, come to the plaza on May 21st to enjoy food and music, and celebrate 130 years of your fire department. And of course, to hear the siren.
The old siren at City Hall
Justin McNulty readies the siren motor to be tested
Roger Fletcher and Kagan Davis with the 1940’s Siren
Kagan Davis, Mahkayla Raudio, Roger Fletcher and Justin McNulty with the siren motor and stand.