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Circa 1930s fire siren put back in service

An oldie, but goody has returned to Red Level and its first full test will come Wednesday.

The town’s 1933 model 5 Darley Champion fire siren has been “resuscitated,” said Red Level Mayor Mike Purnell.

Complete with new paint, parts, perch and purpose, the siren will sound for the first time at 9:45 Wednesday morning, Feb. 10.

The siren, which the town purchased in 1938, will serve as an auxiliary to the current Emergency Management Agency’s siren that is installed downtown and will be tested in synchronization with the county emergency management and the National Weather Service policies for testing tornado sirens between 9 and 10 a.m. on Wednesdays when the weather permits or the same time on the first clear day after Wednesday.

Red Level purchased the siren from Darley Equipment Co., for less than $250 in order to alert volunteer firefighters, which included everyone in the town, when there was a fire.

Purnell said at the time, phone service was limited and people had to drive to Clark Hardware to find out where the fire was.

“Hence, the alarm sat atop the hardware store downtown and with ideal weather conditions could be heard from quite a distance from town,” Purnell said.

With new technology such as radios and pagers and the volunteer firefighters becoming more organized, the siren was taken down and stored outside a storage building.

Purnell said it was “rusting in peace,” but appeared well intact.

“Local resident Lloyd Mattair took the siren to his business in Pensacola and had it resuscitated by his electrical staff,” Purnell said.

The mayor said many people in the community had a hand in bringing the old siren back to life.

“The community appreciates Ed Short with Covington Electric Cooperative and Donnie Dean at PowerSouth for their help, and Jim Tuner, Mike Hattaway and other employees of PowerSouth for installing the siren about 70 feet up the town hall water tower sometime next Mon., Feb. 8,” Purnell said.

“Thanks is also due to Covington County EMA director Susan Carpenter for her offer of assistance.”

He also said needed to thank the council and the town’s employees for their support on this project.