In the 1980’s there were about a half-dozen staffed fire lookout towers in or around the Cleveland National Forest in southern California. Now there are only two, and one of them is staffed by volunteers. The Press-Enterprise has an interesting article about the restoration and operation of some of these towers. Below is an excerpt, but read the whole article HERE.
With a spanking-new visitors book full of fresh, blank pages, the High Point Lookout fire tower in the Cleveland National Forest is beginning a new chapter in its nearly 75-year history.
After a painstaking restoration, the lookout is about to join nine other towers in area forests from which volunteers watch for smoke.
With the 2009 fire season ramping up, High Point just became the second staffed lookout in the Cleveland National Forest when volunteer fire-spotters began regular shifts in June.
The comeback of the High Point Lookout, which had sat vacant since 1992, is part of a larger resurgence of interest in saving and staffing historic fire lookouts.
More than 8,000 lookout towers once dotted the country.
A sort of early-warning system for remote areas, many were built in the 1930s for the U.S. Forest Service on mountains or other elevated spots where people could search for signs of fires.
Up in their perches and armed with binoculars, trained spotters can see a blaze as small as a campfire.
But budget cuts and technological advances led the U.S. government to abandon the lookouts in the 1970s.
While not all the technology has lived up to expectations, experts say, people who peer from the lookouts searching for smoke remain reliable.
Also, a series of major fires has led officials in California to seek every available means of stopping them.
“We’ve had some horrendous fires” in the region, said Pam Morey, a Southern California director for the national nonprofit Forest Fire Lookout Association. “I think it’s gone in a circle and we’re back to the (place) where we’re needed again.”