Say It Isn't So

Monday, October 03, 2005


When I first came to Southern California I was in awe. Then I was in shock! Culture shock! It was arrid where we lived. And oh so hot. The husband (I have to get that in there because I have heard "the wife" so many times) would take me up into the mountains to ease my homesickness. There were trees and visible running waters up there. Going up in altitude was akin to going up in latitude. It would relax me. The pace in the flatlands was full throttle, all the time, 24 hours a day.

One time when we were exploring in the San Jacinto Mountains our hike took us to a structure on the top of a peak. It was a Fire Lookout Tower. It was shut down so we could not even get a look inside. Years later we read about a program in the local newspaper that was looking for volunteers to staff Fire Lookout Towers in the San Bernardino Forest. We decided that it sounded like our cup of tea and enlisted. We went through some serious training to learn the rules and the operation of the equipment. The Forest Service operates with a military like regimen.

The lookout towers used to be plentiful in California and in fact all across the USA. They were mostly shut down in the 80's because satellites could do the job. By the time the mid 90's came around the Forest Service was proposing to raze these structures to the ground. Most of them were quite delapidated and dangerous by this time. A group of people in the Inland Empire (western San Bernardino and Riverside counties) got together and proposed to save these structures. They got them declared as Historical Buildings. They were refurbished one by one in the manner required to have the status historical. After we got our training we were allowed to man the towers. At the point that we joined up there were 8 towers.

We were called Fire Lookout Hosts, because these buildings were allowed to be open to the public. They belonged in fact to the people. We would watch for smoke. It was a room with a view. 360 degrees of windows that we had to keep clean. We had ancient devices called Osbournes (may be related to Ozzie, I don't know) big wheels with sights and markings which were used to give the forest service a line on the smoke report. Most often another tower could give a reading on the smoke and a triangulation thing would pinpoint the fire. We were allowed to spend the night in the tower as long as we registered and had been duty that day or would be on duty the following day. It was glorious. More later.


At 11:11 AM, October 04, 2005, Blogger mdmhvonpa said...

Reminds me of my boy-scout days ... cant wait till the kids are old enough for that.


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