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Friday’s siren an accidental test

But it really is part of the emergency system

by Mark Reaman

Unless you were in Crested Butte before the early 1990s, you haven’t often heard the fire siren outside of noon. But on Friday, April 24, there was a flash (or screech) from the past as the siren blared through town for a few minutes, about 10:15 a.m.

Fire chief Ric Ems was in Crested Butte South when he got a call from the local marshals asking him why the siren was going. He didn’t know.

Ultimately, it was curiosity that killed that cat. A volunteer in the station asked one of the maintenance crew what would happen if he pushed a button he had never seen pushed. So he pushed it and the siren started. It wouldn’t stop. It blew for a few minutes before the crew figured out how to get it unstuck.

In the meantime, veteran firefighters like Noel Adams and Paul Merck responded to the station to see how they could help. The station fielded several calls from other locals looking to help.

“That was nice to see. People were ready to drop what they were doing to help,” said Ems. “The siren hasn’t been used except as a noon whistle for a long time. But in reality, it is a back-up to the back-up of the modern paging system.”

And that modern system does sometimes go down.

“The other thing we would use the siren for is if there is an emergency we feel the public needs to be aware of,” continued Ems. “Say there is a fire or flood or extended road closure, for example. If the siren goes off it should probably be an alert to tune into KBUT or expect a reverse 911 call from the town or county to see what is happening. It is part of the emergency response program to give people a heads-up. And now we know it works. So Friday was sort of a test.”

Ems also explained that the siren is a big part of town history. Before it was used to page volunteer firefighters, it alerted miners that it was noon. The fire crew got the siren back on line for the daily noon whistle on Tuesday.

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