Siren removed, bell to return at AFD

The siren is lifted off the Downtown Arcata station. Photo from AFD

The siren is lifted off the Downtown Arcata station. Photo from AFD

Arcata Fire District

ARCATA – This morning, April 8 cranes hoisted the siren from the top of the Arcata Station. The siren, which was used from about 1975 until the early 1990s to summon firefighters to respond, will be replaced with the historic fire bell.

According to Chief Desmond Cowan, “The bell will be placed back on the building once a local restoration expert has stripped off the garish gold paint and the patina is restored. We’re all really excited to see such great progress on the building projects.”

The removal of the siren is one of a number of very visible signs of the progress that has been made on the long-discussed projects. Firefighters should be back in the downtown Arcata station by mid-summer. Once the Arcata station is completed, work will begin on the McKinleyville Fire Station. The

The old bell tower. The bell will return. Photo from AFD

The old bell tower. The bell will return. Photo from AFD

facility redesigns are focused on providing a modern facility to meet the needs of the District for many years to come. “Without the great collaboration between the District and the Volunteers, this wouldn’t be possible. Also, the community support continues to be instrumental in our success,” said Chief Cowan. The projects are being funded through the Volunteers as well as by generous bequests from the Orvamae Emmerson Endowment and the estate of Lilly Lucchesi. Fundraising efforts in partnership with Arcata Sunrise Rotary as well as many donations from residents have contributed to the success of projects.

Although the siren will no longer sound at noon, it will be coming back for the Kinetic Sculpture Race each year. The siren has been donated to the Kinetic Museum and their crews will be creating a way to transport and operate the siren for the race. Once the building is complete, the bell will sound daily. The bell that will be in the tower on top of the station was used by Arcata Fire from 1908 to 1948. Prior to that, notification of fires came after arrangements were made in 1884 with the Arcata and Mad River Rail Road to sound their bell as an alarm. In 1887, the rail road donated a bell and the tradition of “ringing the bell” continued for another 60 years.

“The modernization and changes to the buildings are an outward sign of the way our organization continues to change, both operationally and organizationally. We are working hard to catch up with the changes that have occurred throughout the communities we serve,” said Cowan.

More information on the District, including the Strategic Plan for 2015 to 2020 is available at


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