Governor signs bill silencing 5 p.m. siren

The Minden siren sports a new coat of paint.

The Minden siren sports a new coat of paint.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

A bill designed to silence the Minden siren was signed into law by Gov. Joe Lombardo on June 7 after passing overwhelmingly in both the senate and the assembly.

The 5 p.m. siren has been silent for a few weeks, according to the town. The sire is still sounding at noon.

The bill is a follow-up to one approved in 2021 that resulted in moving the time the siren was sounded from 6 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The connection of the siren to sundown laws passed by Douglas County commissioners on July 17, 1908, and expanded April 5, 1917, after the county seat was moved to Minden, by members of the Washoe Tribe led to the effort to silence the siren.

Commissioners approved the ordinance that barred “any and all Indians (except such as were actually employed as servants in the town of Gardnerville) remaining in and around the town of Gardnerville after sunset of each and every day are hereby declared a public nuisance.”

Just a few months after the expansion of the ordinance, the Gardnerville fire department installed a new siren, according to The Record-Courier. It would be the next year before the Gardnerville siren was fully operational and could be heard across the Valley.

Four years after the ordinance was approved in 1917, The R-C reported Minden formed its own fire department, which purchased a large fire siren similar to Gardnerville’s that would be installed on top of the Minden mill.

Sirens sounded at fire stations in the Valley for most of the 20th Century, surviving the sundown ordinances, which were repealed as clearly unconstitutional when the county compiled its code in 1974.

Gardnerville stopped sounding its siren sometime around the turn of the century and for a few months in September 2006, the county silenced the siren to improve relations with the tribe.

That prompted the Minden Town Board to take over the siren from the county.

Residents said the siren is a memorial to volunteer firefighters who would be alerted to trouble by the siren’s call.


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