150614 darkTO - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

When the power goes out the first thing I do is check Twitter: searching the #darkTO hashtag quickly tells me how widespread the outage is. Toronto Hydro usually chimes in a little later, but by then I will have switched to monitoring an emergency services list that includes them as well as the Toronto Fire active incidents feed.

Power went out for six hours last Sunday.

Blackouts certainly keep Toronto Fire crews busy. Everyone gets stuck in an elevator at the same time; power cutting out trips alarms, and then backup power coming on trips more. Throughout the afternoon their sirens could still be heard almost constantly.


I don't usually post fourteen-minute audio recordings, but this needs the duration. The key track is recorded from my balcony, simultaneously capturing the audio from the Toronto Fire Service scanner and the trucks themselves as they responded to the calls. The original recording runs for half an hour, but I cut out a lot of the space, some of the calls that didn't apply to the area, and a few other bits as well.

Once I knew that I had enough material I descended my sixteen flights of stairs to see what was happening on the street. There were sirens in the distance and unattended alarms ringing, and traffic certainly wasn't improved by having the lights out. Some of that has been mixed into the finished audio to provide a little more perspective.

Unfortunately power failures are not particularly photogenic, and I never spotted any working fire trucks to add to my images for this project. With something this specific I like to have all of the material recorded fresh and on the spot – it's hardly journalistic, being heavily edited, but verité still matters.


And while Pumper 314 is still my favourite fire truck, it's facing some serious competition from Squad 313 these days.


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