Am I imagining it, or do fire trucks sound different these days?
Am I imagining it, or do fire trucks sound different these days?—BENOÎT MARTEL, WEXFORD
Your ears don’t deceive you: fire trucks bought by the city since 2002 are indeed sporting a new sound. The classic fire engine siren, the one that’s been saving lives and aggravating home_owners for generations, is produced by an electrical device. In new trucks, it’s been replaced by a 200-watt speaker system under the front bumper (to spare the ears of firefighters riding in the cab) that plays a digitized version of the traditional piercing siren sound. It’s easier to maintain and, ironically, is said to produce a more authentic, old-school European fire truck wail (think: “nee-nah, nee-nah”). And, to penetrate the eardrums of iPod addicts, cellphone users and soundproof-car occupants, it’s even louder than before. If that doesn’t get through to the jerk who’s parked in the turning lane, fire trucks have one more trick at their disposal: their air brakes power a real, honest-to-God air horn. Nothing digital about it.