Record-setting lookout loses home in Happy Camp Fire Complex

Nancy Hood receives lookout award
Nancy Hood received the Gene McGaugh Memorial 2012 Lookout of the Year Award from Klamath National Forest Supervisor Patty Grantham. USFS photo.

The person who holds the record for staffing a fire lookout tower for the longest period of time in an unbroken span in one National Forest lost her home in the Happy Camp Fire Complex on Monday. Nancy Hood had to evacuate the Lake Mountain Lookout on the Klamath National Forest a few weeks ago when it was threatened by the fire. As she left, the tower was wrapped in fire shelter material to protect it from the flames. Then Ms. Hood had to evacuate her home at Scott River Road in northwest California when the fire spread in that direction. Her house was destroyed on Monday along with one other residence and two outbuildings.

An effort is underway to help Ms. Hood in time of need. Funds are being collected at GoFundMe.com where anyone can donate to an account set up for her.

Ms. Hood, 75 years old, is in her 56th year of working as a fire lookout. In 2011 an article in the Mail Tribune said, “Her unbroken span as a fire lookout in one forest is believed to be the longest in the history of the U.S. Forest Service, according to both the agency and the national Forest Fire Lookout Association”.

The remains of Nancy Hood's house. Photo from the GoFundMe site.
The remains of Nancy Hood’s house. Photo from the GoFundMe site.

Below is an excerpt from an announcement the Klamath National Forest published when Ms. Hood received the Gene McGaugh Memorial 2012 Lookout of the Year Award.

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“The Klamath National Forest is pleased to announce Nancy Hood as the recipient of the 2012 Gene McGaugh Memorial Lookout of the Year. The recipient of this annual award is selected by lookout and fire prevention personnel from multiple agencies in the Siskiyou County area.

“Nancy is a prime example of someone with a deep passion for serving the American people by caring for the land,” said Klamath National Forest Supervisor Patty Grantham. “We are proud to have people like Nancy watching over and helping to protect national forest and other lands alike.”

Hood has been working on the Klamath National Forest as a Fire Detection Lookout for 55 years. She began her Forest Service career in the summer of 1959 while still a Mechanical Engineering student at Sacramento City College. After that summer out in what she sees as the steep and rugged paradise of the Klamath, Hood began searching for a life-long career as a Fire Detection Lookout.

Hood has served at Lake Mountain Lookout since 1992, the oldest lookout in the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service. It was originally constructed in 1911/12 and in 1996 was placed on the National Historic Lookout Register. The basement is original to the structure, while the “cab” on top of the structure is “new”, dating back to 1933.

Hood has had an influence in the training of many new lookouts during her lengthy career. “I really try to impress upon them to learn the country – learn your area first, expand out to the districts next to you and just keep up with the looking,” she said. ”

Thanks and a hat tip go out to Don.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

9 thoughts on “Record-setting lookout loses home in Happy Camp Fire Complex”

  1. Thank you so much for this article. Nancy is my grandmother’s best friend, I’ve known her my whole life. This article really honors her, and what she loves doing.
    If you feel it on your heart to donate please don’t hesitate.

    http://www.gofundme.com/e9hkw8

  2. I am at a loss of words for the fact that they had weeks to prep the structures threatened by the fire and still lost the ones they did. Obviously with all the crews and engines assigned they didn’t do enough work to adequately protect them. Maybe the Forest Service owes her a new home.

    1. Jerry, your second guessing is off the mark and, frankly, uncalled for. Her house was prepped just as the others were along the Scott River Road. Pumps were installed, sprinklers set up. There are times when no matter how much a structure is prepped for fire it doesn’t survive. Judging from the pictures of the scene I’ve seen, this was one of them.

      1. The plan all along was to contain the fire at the Scott River. It started right behind the Happy Camp Ranger Station. That’s appx FORTY miles. Not to mention the much ballyhooed “Aerial Ignition” and “Tactical Firing” around Tom Martin and Muck a Muck Creek. No one expects the FS to share responsibility for homes burnt around Scott Bar..they never do.

    2. Cheap shot, unfounded comment. Based on your logic, the USFS (or whatever Agency) should bear the burden for damaged/destroyed private property? Let’s see how more local taxpayers like in Cal Fire or LA County protection feel about paying for their neighbor’s losses. See you in Court.

      1. We wrap lookouts and historical cabins all the time. We do extensive clearing around same structures. Do we do it for private residences? Just saying the efforts are not always the same.At what point does the public get the extra effort for a fire burning for months? The public is at the mercy of whichever agency is managing a long term fire and should recieve above and beyond prep work given to lookouts, historical structures and agency facilities….just saying!

        1. Unfortunately Jerry, you do not know what you are talking about. The loss of structures was not the result of inadequate preparation but the result of the alignment of winds, a drainage and fuels. Those that know something about fire know that the three things that most influence fire behavior are; fuels, weather and topography. The winds aligned out of the west with the drainage in the area that still contained unburned fuels creating a firestorm which subsequently took these structures. No amount of engines in place could have stopped the movement of the fire nor any preparation ahead of time could have saved those structures be it wrap, hoselines or sprinklers. I strongly reject the notion that the firefighters did not do an adequate job. How many structures were saved after this fire did it’s immediate damage? How long before the fire spread was contained as well as the spot across the river? Before commenting as you have, it would be much more prudent for you to get the facts correct.

  3. I am sorry to hear about Nancy’s loss. Did her old pickup survive the fire? Nancy will always hold a place in my heart…I was on patrol in the Marble Mountain Wilderness, 4th of July weekend, 2006, when I thought I heard Lake Mountain (Nancy) calling my sign on the radio. I was about to be a father, and the call I answered was telling me her telling me the news, and that I needed to come out of the Wilderness and meet my ride at the trailhead.
    I first met Nancy at Lake Mountain, where she trained me in the terrain and the ins-and-outs of the old tower, so I could work the lookout and give her some time off! It was there that I saw the a black and white photo of her old pickup up parked by a tower, circa. 1950s. Passing by her home, I would often see her old truck parked outside, and it made me feel good to know she still drove it. Sad that spot is gone, and a fire related tragedy struck a person Nancy. It can happen to anyone, I guess…

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