A Brief History of Brooke Fire Rescue’s Air Raid Siren

Siren located in top left of photo – Beside the entrance of once was Alvinston’s Fire Hall

In 2019 Brooke Fire Rescue installed a fully restored air raid siren at the Alvinston Fire Station. A few years previous to this I remember Alvinston Firefighter, Charlie Cutler telling me about finding the siren mixed into debris at Brooke-Alvinston’s Township yard. It had been discarded from renovations done to Alvinston’s Municipal offices and post office, which once housed Alvinston’s Fire Hall. When Alvinston’s current location was built opening in 1992 on Nauvoo Road they had left the siren behind.

Charlie, who was interested in the mechanics of the siren pulled it out of the debris and with the help of the Alvinston Firefighter’s Association and a few donations from locals in the community. He then began working on restoring it to it’s original glory. Meticulously he worked on the siren over a two year stretch and through trial and error completed the project. Along the way he also became curious about the sirens history saying “as it turn’s out fixing it was easier than finding out it’s history!”

The air raid siren at Agriscience Co-op in Glencoe, CHarlie Cutlers work place. Co-worker Scott Aldred in photo shows just how large the siren is.

In the 50’s sirens were installed across Canada as a part of Canada’s Cold War effort. In Western Europe and North America the Soviet Union’s aggressive stance put the world in a state of fear bringing three levels of government in Canada to an agreement to take responsibility for a ‘passive defence system’. This system included warning systems, volunteer rescue and firefighting.

In Alvinston one phone call, which called 10 fire phones located within firemen homes would relay the fires location initiating a button to be pressed which activated the siren summoning all the firemen to that location. The large electric siren could be heard throughout the community and the first fireman to get to the hall turned off the alarm.

Once the 70’s arrived the imminent nuclear threat of attack declined and with other technologies being developed the usefulness of the passive defence system came into question. As a result the Department of National Defence began removing the sirens but many flew under the departments radar with the one located in Alvinston being one left behind.

Charlie, with torches in tow and the help of his son CJ, the two headed to the township yard and cut off the original 10 inch round pipe that had held the siren in place at the Municipal Office. They loaded it on a trailer with a back hoe and then transported the siren to Agris Co-op in Glencoe where Charlie worked, which began the two year restoration phase.

The left side of the siren had a cracked fin so Charlie began his search to find one. In the meantime he fixed the bearings when finally finding a siren in Bothwell, thanks to Bothwell Fire Chief Brian Caroll. With this find Charlie was able to dismantle the siren finding the parts to finish his restoration.

He then found someone who could come out to the Co-op to balance the two fins so the siren wouldn’t vibrate while at top speed. The armature was also checked inside the motor and it was determined that it was in great shape.

Once finding another 10 inch pipe Charlie’s co-worker Mike Campbell welded a base to the bottom of the pipe readying it for installation. Mellis Construction then installed a concrete base beside the Alvinston Fire Hall in position to bolt the 10 inch pipe to.

Charlie located the transformer he needed to run the siren in Windsor as the motor was a 550 three phase type and the power at the Fire Hall was not enough on it’s own. Adding the transformer takes the existing power, bumping the power up enough to run the siren at 550.

Finally complete and ready to be installed Matt Marsh Crane Service out of Bothwell lifted the siren up onto the 10 inch pipe where it sits today restored and ready to use.

When the siren was first restored, retired volunteer Firefighter Mike McCabe who had been with Alvinston Fire rescue for 20 years described to me how before there were pagers you had to live within hearing distance of the siren. “Be nice to hear this again… when I joined it was used to call firefighters to the hall downtown for a call or practice. Good work guys…” he said on a Brooke Fire rescue Facebook post in 2019 when the siren was first restored. He also remembers the siren being tested every Sunday night at 1900 hours even when they did have pagers just in case of radio failure.

The sound of Brooke Fire Rescue Air Raid Siren

Shortly after the the siren was installed in it’s permanent location devastation hit the Brooke Fire Rescue family when 20 year old Tanner Redick was killed in a crash on Friday, December 13th, 2019. The Alvinston native and volunteer firefighter had just been hired on full time by Six Nation’s Fire.

The community came out on Wednesday December 18th lining the street for a procession from the Alvinston Fire Station to the funeral home with the air raid siren ringing in the night air mourning Tanner’s life, a life lost far too soon.


The Tanner Redick inaugural Memorial 2 Pitch Tournament was first organized in 2020 but was postponed due to COVID 19 but finally went ahead on the weekend of August 19th 2021. In their first year they raised $20,000 and in the second year they doubled that amount by raising $41,149 all going back to local organizations. This event now is an event people look forward to and will carry Tanner’s legacy into the future of the community.

Through researching the history of air raid sirens Charlie realized that in small towns like Alvinston these sirens were an integral part of the community when calling volunteer fire departments to a scene. The siren was not only used to fight fires but also to warn people of approaching destructive weather conditions such as tornados. It also became clear to him that in these small communities the siren symbolized the care and concern people had for their neighbours. “ I think it’s a relevant symbol for our community and reflects our historical commitment to keep people safe – whether safe in dangerous weather, safe from attack by others or ensuring that volunteer firefighters are called together when they are needed,” he said. “In my opinion the long Alvinston community tradition of caring for each other is symbolized by this siren and for that reason I think it is an important symbol to preserve in Alvinston.”


2 thoughts on “A Brief History of Brooke Fire Rescue’s Air Raid Siren

  1. Good story as usual, well researched, good for charlie for saving it. Could not get the sound effect to work,said  no video with supported format and MIME found.  I don,t know if that is a me problem or a you problem.

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