Swiss fire brigade scrambled 10 separate times because of pigeons

Swiss fire brigade scrambled 10 separate times because of pigeons

When you think of the fire brigade, most picture people taking daring risks in burning buildings, evacuating people to safety if a river or a lake bursts its banks, or using a ladder to get a waylaid cat out of a tree. However, the local emergency services in Chur, Switzerland have revealed that they were called out to the main station in the city 10 separate times in the last year, all thanks to pigeons.

One balloon and 10 pigeons summon Chur fire brigade

According to the Chur Fire Department, their staff had to be called out 12 times to the main station in Canton Graubünden in the last year. However, instead of having to face multiple fires at the public transport hub, 10 of the callouts were caused by pigeons, while one was caused by a child’s balloon.

Speaking to local paper Südostschweiz, fire department spokesperson Andreas Stampfer said that the problem was caused by “linear detectors.” In essence, the alarms installed in the station react to both heat and the clouding of vision - assumed by the technology to be smoke of some kind. To detect the smoke, the alarm shoots a beam of light across a span. If that light is interrupted, the alarm is triggered.

Pigeons trigger sensitive fire alarms at Swiss station

Unfortunately, should a pigeon decide to land where the beam is being projected, the alarm assumes the "rat of the sky" to be smoke, triggering the alarm and summoning the fire brigade. The local council is unable to place defensive spikes in front of the alarm as they might also trigger the system, so if any avian decides to rest on or near the alarm, it goes off. 

This has led to 10 separate callouts in 2023 thanks to pigeons - Stamfer said that during one such “operation” all they had to do was scare the pigeon away from the alarm by using a bell. What’s more, every single time the fire brigade is called out unnecessarily, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), the technical owners of the station, get a fine of 750 francs. 

While amusing, Stampfer said that the bad alarm system was a waste of resources, with workers at the fire brigade having to drop everything to respond to the fake callouts. They called on SBB to fix the problem as soon as possible.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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