Fla. Fire Towers Being Sold Off

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. --

During wildfire season, the only way the state used to be able to watch out for fires were manned towers. Now, those towers are relics. Technology has taken over for manned fire towers and the towers themselves are being sold off.

In Leesburg, a sturdy 100-foot tall fire tower is now a part of history and Forestry area supervisor Ray Lovett says its a shining example of how thousands of Florida homes were once protected from wildfires.

To walk up that tower, to sit in that small cubicle all day. Most of the people, that was their job, they enjoyed what they did, he said.

Over the past several years, the Division of Forestry says the towers, some around 70 years old, are costing taxpayers, in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars a year to maintain.

The aging towers are not just in Lake County; they're all around the state. The Division says the towers can cost an average of $2,000 to $3,000 to repair annually.

The wood steps that go up the flooring, the rusting on the bracing and things of that nature, Lovett explained.

Lovett says the towers are being phased out, because in the age of the cell phones residents call in fires from almost anywhere. There's also more use of airplanes and the simple fact that there is less wooded land prone to fires.

It's very rare for a fire in Central Florida, or even in the southeast anymore, for a fire to go unnoticed for any given length of time, Lovett said.

It isn't costing the Division much to take down the towers. The recently-dismantled Leesburg tower was won in an auction by a Georgia man, who paid about $600 for it and foot the bill to take it apart.

Out of four towers in Lake County, there are only two left. In Orange, Seminole and Brevard counties there used to be ten; now there are only two.

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