Fire chief backs siren

The Cambridge Fire Brigade training on Victoria Square with the Town Hall and its siren in the background.

For Waikato towns the sound of the fire siren calling volunteers has been part and parcel of life for decades.

News columnists Peter Carr refers to it today in his column on Page 8, where he pays tribute to the legion of volunteers who can take a significant amount of credit for keeping the country ticking.

He also suggests the fire siren has taken on a different significance in recent years – as a reminder to the public about their work.

There are calls in some quarters for the Cambridge siren on top of the Town Hall to go – but the town’s fire chief Don Gerrand is firmly opposed to those suggestions.

Peter Carr

“I’m aware of some social media debate on it – but the alarm is still the main and most reliable call to firefighters,” he said.

Firefighters get an alert via a pager, but he said the siren sounds earlier.

People getting their booster shots against Covid were in the hall last weekend when the siren sounded.

“Everyone inside and outside covered their ears and complained about the noise – it’s horrendous if you’re sat near it,” one person told the News.

Invite people to write letters to the editor on the issue and there is some reluctance. The concern that it might be viewed as a criticism of the fire service, or an effort to reduce the community’s awareness of their work, has prompted at least one would-be author to avoid exposure to “hate mail” in response.

The Town Hall has lost major concerts because of the siting of the alarm – the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will no longer play there.

And as Peter Carr notes, the number of times it sounds is increasing

Don Gerrand

But Don Gerrard was having none of it this week.

He said the siren was part of the culture of the town – and he suggested moving it to another point would simply spell the beginning of the end of it.

“I think people come to a serene town, hear the siren and want to make changes,” he said. “People should be thankful it’s a fire alarm and not an air raid siren.”

Don Gerrand says the siren at the top of the Town Hall is part of the culture of Cambridge.


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