Lookout damaged in Bovee Fire to be assessed by engineer

Updated at 4:38 p.m. CDT October 16, 2022

Scott Lookout Tower, Nebraska National Forest
Scott Lookout Tower — Nebraska National Forest, Sept. 15, 2022. Photo by Rick.

We received photos taken by Rick of the Scott Lookout on the Nebraska National Forest that were taken September 15 about two weeks before the tower was damaged in the Bovee Fire on October 2. Rick is a Forest Service employee from another state and is knowledgeable about wildland fire.

Scott Lookout Tower, Nebraska National Forest. September 15, 2022.
Scott Lookout Tower — Nebraska National Forest, Sept. 15, 2022. Photo by Rick.

“The road up to the lookout was lined with big, old (well cured) hand piles and the tower was surrounded by ponderosa pines with an excellent needle cast duff layer,” Rick wrote.

Scott Lookout Tower, Nebraska National Forest
Scott Lookout Tower, Nebraska National Forest, Sept. 15, 2022. By Rick.

12:53 CDT October 15, 2022

Bovee Fire Scott lookout tower burning
Scott lookout tower burning during the Bovee Fire, October 2, 2022. USFS photo.

The Scott lookout tower that was damaged during the Bovee Fire in Nebraska on October 2 is going to be assessed next month by a structural engineer to determine the integrity of the structure that remains. The damage easily visible in photos includes wood steps and the cabin at the top. The steel framework still stands.

Bovee Fire Scott lookout tower
Scott lookout tower damaged during the Bovee Fire. USFS photo.

The fire burned nearly 19,000 acres of the Nebraska National Forest and private land on both sides of Highway 2 west of Halsey. When it started October 2 the relative humidity was in the 20s and the wind was gusting to 34 mph out of the south-southeast.

Bovee Fire Scott lookout tower
Scott lookout tower in the Bovee Fire. Photo by Nebraska State Patrol.

In addition to destroying most of the structures in a 4-H camp, several thousand acres of hand-planted forest burned. The forest was an experiment started in 1903 to provide timber for the railroad and early Sandhills residents. The first planting consisted of 35 acres of jack pine from Minnesota, 15 acres of yellow pine from the Black Hills, and 34 acres of mixed red cedar, blue spruce, jack, and yellow pine.

Bovee Fire grass
Grass sprouting after the Bovee Fire. USFS photo.

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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.

16 thoughts on “Lookout damaged in Bovee Fire to be assessed by engineer”

  1. I was there in Sep 2020. It was a great hike and the tower was a beautiful place to see the forest and the sandhills. I just found out about the fire. It’s really sad, but I also believe that fires are a necessary part of nature, and this may just be nature’s way of trying to reclaim this area to revert it back to the sandhills landscape.

    0
    0
  2. Stormy Peat Lookout burned on the Moose Fire too, this summer. Somebody didn’t get to that one either before it burned. Built in the ‘30s. Surrounded by timber too.

    0
    0
  3. Fire hooked the retardant line. Winds 30+ that day.
    If there would have been enough resources to box it in then maybe. But w wood stairs and a wood structure and that fire… tough day.
    It was a ripper.
    And I agree, a high drop. Laughing my a off.
    Thanks for lazy thoughts Chip.

    0
    0
    1. And here lies the problem, CONTINUING to ignore Frank’s very common sense concerns and statements! Mister Fed Man !

      0
      0
      1. Hey Jim,
        As Mr. Rocky Balboa once famously said,
        “Stay out of this, it ain’t no pie eating contest”.

        0
        0
  4. Agreed Parky.
    The retardant did work where it was dropped. Just not enough resources that day for the veracity of the fire and way late in the day when tankers were called.
    CL 6 w the winds on the fire that day, and especially a “high drop”, would have blown away. You must work for Andy.

    0
    0
  5. A coverage L6 high drop would have blown away. Winds were in excess of 30.
    The retardant DID slow the fire on the E and S sides but w inadequate resources for the size and veracity of the Bovee fire that day, it hooked around it. You can see from the pictures where the retardant held. You must work for Andy.
    Agreed Parky

    0
    0
  6. Frank, take note of the painfully evident spotting distance that occurred on that fire. Also note the other values at risk (that WERE fire wise and STILL lost) in the area. ALSO note the low population (small response force) in the area coupled with the fact that due to the relative remote nature of that district most of the firefighting force at that location had their homes threatened and/or evacuated during that incident. A fire brand pretty obviously started the fire on the tower not the trees next to it. There were not enough resources to effectively protect ALL of the values at risk. What’s more embarrassing than a fire tower that is not fire wise is the cheap shots from the peanut gallery. Let’s discuss the many thousands of successful fuel treatment acres on that forest that have produced dramatic ecological benefits.

    0
    0
    1. You mean the successful fuels treatments on that man made, fake invasive forest that has no business being there? That one?

      0
      0
      1. Nope, the thousands of acres of fire applied to improve the range ecology by dramatically reducing the cedar encroachment. Just taking care of the land and serving the people

        0
        0
    2. Cheap shots? More US Government probably not taking care of infrastructure whether Firewise or not…like DoD, USFS wins some prizes in not taking care of its properties.

      Budgets or not, the taxpaying citizen ( the peanut gallery) would slightly expect the higher echelons of land management agencies to consider historical improvements and yes firebrands that were “painfully obvious” and even taking out a few of those trees as a fuels reduction project and S212 op

      Cheap shots? Maybe. I’ve been and traveled that area numerous times and am painfully aware of the expanse of the area, remoteness, and lack of resources….almost like many USFWS and BLM lands.

      Nonetheless, 7Ps come into effect and if observation is a cheap shot, then replanting ought to be really simple,huh?

      0
      0
  7. Where did ignition take place on the tower, top or bottom or? What was the source of the ignition? Wind direction and speed and time of ignition? It appears that the fire got no closer than about 100 feet from the structure? At what temperature/exposure times would it take to compromise the steel’s structure? Is there any chance that the temperature might have tempered the steel. Was the drop made before or after the tower ignited, or at what stage during the structure fire was it made?

    ‘Scuse my ignorance.

    0
    0
  8. Apparently FIREWISE discussions aren’t that important unless things are codified in a CFR…which like OSHA…the Feds would be exempt to try to get it that way.

    Being a former FIREWISE guy on my past..this is a true embarrassment at many a level…certainly, not GS 1-9….

    Practice what one preaches and apparently budgets and quite possibly could have had an S212 class earlier in the Bessey NF lifetime where like MR Carroll states 300 ft

    Clearly, that would have made sense to this BS in Forestry grad

    0
    0
  9. Notice how the retardant clearly did NOTHING to protect the tower. It’s black on all sides. Just saying. Should have dropped retardant ON the tower.

    “Do you have the lookout tower?” Center your load on the tower, Cov level 6, high drop.”

    R2 won’t rebuild it, they’re a mess.

    0
    0
  10. That is a shame the lookout burned. This is a very unique Forest as it is indeed hand planted. Up until a recent massive Chinese plantation, this was the largest planted forest on Earth. I first read about it in Eric Rutkows book, American Canopy.

    Forester Charles Bessey thought that the Nebraska Sandhills once had an ancient forest so he convinced the gov to start planting a National Forest, a lot of history here. Glad the old historic nursery didn’t get damaged.

    0
    0

Comments are closed.