One of the odder unintended consequences of the mortgage crisis: noise pollution.

Firefighters in Arizona have found themselves answering hundreds of false alarms at foreclosed and abandoned houses… and, unless they see smoke or have the owner’s permission, they can’t legally enter the houses to shut the damn things off.

At first they tried to track down the mortgage holders. Many were out of state banks. In the labyrinthine world of the modern mortgage industry it was impossible to find anyone to take responsibility–the same problem that allows some people to stay in their foreclosed homes by challenging the foreclosing bank to “produce the note.”

Until the alarms’ batteries die, days later, the neighbors are stuck listening to the shrieking of empty houses.