1. #1
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Exclamation Forget the satalite! Get out the firefinder, and build those towers!

    I was recently talking with my grandfather, on the location of his life long career. Now its just 4 steel beams that come off the bed rock about 3 or 4 feet. He was a life long watchman for the Forest service, he started in the summer of 1953, and worked for the park Service until 1987, when they decided that lookouts were obsolete, and rigged 4 dynamite charges to the legs, and blew it off the mountain, leaving the only 4 small remains, of his dreams. I felt lucky to have spent a few summers when I was a child, with him on the tower.I remember, it rose 85 feet off the Blueberry Mountain, its cab a mere
    7x7, large paine windows, with a entry way through the floor. There was a tri-pod with telescope in a box on the floor, a few map rolls, and an azimuth circle in the center, with a small party line telephone on the side.It had a small wooden platform around the outside, from when it had stairs, then it had a enclosed ladder. On the ground was his cabin, that had hooks on the inside for a steel bar on top, and bottom, I guess for bear protection, inside was a wood stove, bed, small ice box-yup-a real ice box from the 30's, it also had 2 fire swatters, that were aged so bad they stuck in place, a shovel, grass fire broom, and an Indian tank.
    It makes me wonder, why they took all that useful equipment and replaced it with a satalite. The one remaininf tower, on the local state park, spotted 6, 55 acre+ forest fire in the last two years, a satalite didn't! Why the heck don't they put up sets of three towers in different places in these western wildernesses, and let them find the fires, excuse the language, but they'd find it a hell of a lot quicker than a guy in front of a satalte screen!

  2. #2
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Building high tech systems is a more effective way of spending our money. You didn't actually expect it to work as designed, did you?

    Tell the Feds that the towers will cost $10 million each and they will probably build 500 of them. Of course it will take 20 years to do it, if they ever get completed. The cost over runs should make them no more than $30 million each.

    Big Brother loves us!

    [This message has been edited by DD (edited August 26, 2000).]

  3. #3
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Fireguy57, the towers are NOT all gone. California forests of the USFS still use towers extensively. You can never replace a good pair of eyes and a fire finder. I did a summer as a lookout at The Bald Mountain lookout in the Sequoia National Forest in 1981. (the area of the Manter fire this year.)

    Be safe. The dragon lurks!!!

  4. #4
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Thumbs up

    I agree with you that we need more use the towers that the US Government put up for spotting fires. Here in the Lincoln National Forest in Southern New Mexico, they used them until this year and are not thinking of funding the tower that watches over our valley because they haven't signed a new contract with the fire watcher. She was very good at spotting fires, she put directions to a fire that she saw from 22 miles within 150 feet, so they do do the work they are intended too and are not that expensive to keep up there either..


  5. #5
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Again the concern is over cost-efficency vs practical-efficency. With drastically hacked-up budgets, agencys have to look at the most cost relevant means to get an acceptable level of coverage. So what have lost .... lookouts that performed for us for many years from the same lookout. That is corporate knowledge and local savy lost forever. There is no way that can be retained or emulated without putting someone in place for all those years again. We are now describing skills and professional culture that are and have disappeared. Known to us as the "good 'ol days". I am fortunate to have been a part of it and influenced by those savy old timers.

  6. #6
    Firehouse.com Guest


    As has been noted not all of the fire towers are gone. I know of several in the Rocky Mtn. region for which the staffing is contracted out and several that are manned throughout the summer by volunteers. And there are still a limited number that have paid personnel in them.

    The manning of fire towers went away throughout the 70's and 80's as the budgets of the federal resource agencies were slashed. Another way the resource agencies were downsized through this time was by limiting the amount of persons they could employ. Each ranger district was only allowed a certain number of FTE's(full-time equivalent positions) to perform all of the tasks assigned to it (sometimes the district might have had money to perform a task but they did not have any more FTE's or positions and so they were forced to eliminate the task). The FMO's, when forced to decide between keeping a tower manned or an engine manned, chose the engines and resorted to flying recons in planes when fire conditions were bad (and fire funding sources and not regular budgets could be used). Most FMO's and districts did not want their fire towers eliminated or unmanned.

    Where we are today did not happen overnight or even in the last few years. The personnel reductions in the Forest Service and BLM started in the early 70's. These land management agencies were easy victims of Congressional reductions especially through serveral lean fire years. The clamoring of the public for reductions in the federal budget and for reductions in the number of federal employees fell on these agencies and their fire functions.

    Attempts to utilize satellites to track lightning strikes, etc, were novel attempts by the personnel at the agencies to perform their jobs better. I have never seen them categorized or proposed as a way to eliminate fire towers.


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