© 2024 KUNR
Illustration of rolling hills with occasional trees and a radio tower.
Serving Northern Nevada and the Eastern Sierra
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lombardo signs law that silences Minden’s controversial siren

A white, vertical tower with a red siren on top. A blue sky fills the background of the composition.
Paul Boger
KUNR Public Radio
The siren that sounds every day at noon and 5 p.m. in Minden, Nev., is associated with the town’s discriminatory history excluding Native Americans. It is located behind the town’s fire department and across the street from Minden Park.

Governor Lombardo signed SB391 into law, which prohibits Nevada counties, cities and unincorporated towns from sounding sirens, bells or alarms for, what many see as racist purposes.

The new legislation means that a controversial siren in Minden that is connected to the town’s history as a “sundown town” will be silenced permanently.

Patrick Burtt, Vice-Chairman of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California and Chairman of the Dresslerville Community Council, said he is grateful to Senator Dallas Harris and Assemblyman Howard Watts for initiating legal mechanisms to silence the Minden siren.

“SB391 is a historical beacon for the racist atmosphere that's been imposed onto Washoe people of the towns of Minden and Gardnerville since their inception, or at least since the sounding of the siren first began,” Burtt said.

But some Minden residents insist it’s meant to pay tribute to the volunteer fire department and first responders, but for Native American communities, it is a reminder of a traumatic past.

Until 1974, anyone who wasn’t White had to leave Minden and neighboring Gardnerville at the end of every day, or face dire consequences. A 1917 county ordinance mandated that Native Americans needed to be out of the town’s limits by 6:30 p.m.

For a century, Minden has been sounding the siren every day at noon and 5 p.m.

This is not the first time that legislators have tried to ban the siren.

In 2021, Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak signed Assembly Bill 88 to ban sundown sirens in Nevada. But shortly after it passed, the town of Minden announced an agreement to change the time of the siren from 6 to 5 p.m.

Chairman Burtt said it is unfortunate that the first iteration of this law was not upheld by the town of Minden, but he’s hopeful that this new legislation will put an end to the situation.

“Now that this bill has been passed, there are legal and fiscal consequences for the town of Minden to continue to sound the siren,” Burtt said.

According to the new law, Nevada counties, cities and unincorporated towns can’t sound a siren, bell or alarm for a purpose other than alerting for an emergency, occasional testing or to celebrate legal holidays.

If they do, counties could be fined up to $50,000 for every violation – meaning Minden would have to pay $100,000 per day for the two times the siren sounds.

Maria joined KUNR Public Radio in December 2022 as a staff reporter. She is interested in stories about underserved communities, immigration, arts and culture, entertainment, education and health.
Related Content