Fire chief Powers explains continuing need for siren

Brian Smith | Staff Photographer
Chautauqua Volunteer Fire Department’s siren sits in the Institution’s overflow parking lot.

Chautauqua Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mark Powers is a visible presence on the grounds, so he hears things. He hears a few more things after the fire siren pierces the nocturnal stillness on the grounds.

“Sometimes people don’t like it when our fire siren wakes them or wakes up their children,” he said. People ask him why a fire siren is still needed in this age of smartphones and social media.

Powers said there are three main reasons for the siren — the first being that it still ensures that the community knows there is an emergency situation.

The second reason, he said, is because many of the houses on the grounds are very close together.

“If you are sleeping soundly, your neighbor’s smoke alarm might not wake you up, and a fire in his house could spread to yours with no warning,” Powers said. “Do you want to take that chance?

The third reason is that the siren helps to clear the streets.

“During the day, kids play in many streets,” he said. “Our siren alerts parents and the kids themselves to get off the streets so we can reach the scene quickly.”

Powers noted that when the fire department was transitioning to a new building in 2006, the siren was silent.

“I had 10 times as many people tell me they missed the siren as were happy it was quiet,” he said.

Powers is leaving his post as chief of Chautauqua’s fire department at the end of the year.

“It just feels like the right time to try something new for a while,” he said. Powers will likely leave the area at least for the off-season, but he hopes and expects to be around the grounds for at least part of the 2014 Season.

“This area is home for me,” he said. “If things work out right, and I hope they do, I’ll be around the fire department some way or another next year.”