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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Salamanca in Cattaraugus County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Fire Observation Stations: / Fire Tower is Reborn

the First Line of Defense

 
 
Fire Observation Stations: the First Line of Defense image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, September 26, 2015
1. Fire Observation Stations: the First Line of Defense
Left panel
Inscription.
[left panel] In the early 20th century, approximately one million acres in the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves were destroyed by fire. In response, New York State passed legislation that created a forest patrol service and funded the construction and staffing of fire observation stations. The first observation station, or fire tower, built in 1909, was made from crude logs and planks. By 1917, steel towers had replaced wooden ones.

Over the next 50 years, fire observers and rangers faithfully scanned the forests for signs of smoke. In the 1970s, many fire towers were decommissioned when the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation began using aerial surveillance flights for fire detection. By 1990, the fire tower era had ended. Within the last few years, citizen awareness in lumbering and farming pracitices, cell phones, global positioning (satellite and radio) technology, together with well-trained and well-equiped volunteer fire companies, have made airplanes unnecessary in forest fire detection.

Fire Towers
The original galvanized steel towers for fire protection purposes - made in various styles to meet every requirement....This picture of an 80-foot tower shows the most popular type. It has regular stairs with frequent landings. Hand rails and guards make these towers safe to climb.
The house
Fire Tower is Reborn image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, September 26, 2015
2. Fire Tower is Reborn
Right panel
at the top provides comfortable quarters for the observer and protection for his instruments and charts.
36-page descriptive booklet of Forest Service Towers sent upon request....Write Aermotor Co. .. 2500 Roosevelt Road, Chicago
The Aermotor Company, which began building windmills in 1892, set the standard for all types of steel towers. Most forest observation towers, including Summit's, are Aermotor products. Image courtesy of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

New York's first fire observation station was constructed on Hunter Mountain in the Catskills in 1909. Image courtesy of the NYS Departmant of Environmental Conservation.

View from the 30-foot fre tower looking down the Bova Valey in Allegany State Park. The Bova Tower was a temporary structure located a mile east of the Summit Fire Tower. Image courtesy of Bob Schmid, Allegany State Park Historical Society.

A commitment to Public Service and Excellence
Harry Gray (on left) served as oberver from 1935-42. Upon his death, his wife, Anastasia Gray (second from left), succeeded Harry and held the post from 1843-52. Imae courtesy of Mary O. Jones.
Fran Bosquest, observer from 1953-69, loved his position at Allegany State Park and in turn was loved by park visitors. Long lines would often form as tourists waited to climb the tower to marvel at the view and
View From Enclosed Tower Base image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, September 26, 2015
3. View From Enclosed Tower Base
The tower at it's base is enclosed by security fencing. The back of the marker structure is seen by the trail that comes from the trunk of the trail system that begins at the summit of Allegany State Park Route 1 (ASP 1). On this date, a Saturday, the tower was hosted by Paul Crawford, President of the Friends of Allegany State Park, from 11AM to 1PM.
talk with Fran, a gifted outdoorsman and lecturer. Image courtesy of Jeanne B. Merkhofer.
Fritz Opferbeck, 1901-71, was the last observer to man the Summit Fire Tower. Tourists appreciated his warm, helpful spirit. Image taken in the tower's cabin. Courtesy of Bill Opferbeck.

[right panel] In the fall of 1926, the 60-foot Summit Fire Tower on South Mountain was constructed. The following spring, the Summit Fire Tower was first manned. Allegany State Park maintained the strusture until the fall of 1970 when aerial surveillance flights began to replace fire towers fpr fire detection. The tower was abandoned until 1999, when a group of concerned citizens recognized the value of this forgotten resource.
These concerned citizens established the Allegany State Park Fire Tower Restoration Committee to:
★ Restore the Fire Tower to its original, safe, and useful condition.
★ Provide resources to maintain the fire tower and surrounding area.
★ Develop and staff an educational program to explore the history of the fire tower and the surrounding forest.
★ Encourage public support for the Summit Fire Tower.
★ Provide hikers and tourists with dramatic views of the surrounding parkland.

This 1929 photo shows a sign welcoming tourists to climb the "hundred steps" for a breathtaking view. The Summit Fire Tower was one of
View From Top of Tower image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, September 26, 2015
4. View From Top of Tower
Looking down at the marker shelter from the tower. In the past, trees were culled to allow for distant observation. Now the trees around the small clearing obstruct the view.
three towers constructed in Allegany State Park. In 1928, a tower was constructed on Mt. Tuscarora and another in the Rice Brook area. Image courtesy of Robert Upper. Allegany State Park Historical Society.

This photo, taken near the end of the tower's fire-fighting role in the 1960s, shows pane glass in the cabin. The structure to the right of the tower served as the living quarters for the fire tower observer during the fire season (April through November). Image courtesy of Jeanne B. Merkhofer, Allegany State Park Historical Society.

Allegany State Park's Fire Tower Restoration Committee is one of many volunteer groups throughout New York that restore abandoned firetowers. The restoration committee includes area residents, members of the Allegany State Park Historical Society, and members of the Niagara Frontier Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club. Image courtesy of Bob Schmid, Allegany State Park Fire Tower Restoration Committee.

This 1951 photo shows Anastasia Gray keeping watch over Allegany State Park from Summit Fire Tower. Image courtesy of Mary O. Jones

Excerpts from actual fire tower guest log book. Scared!! good view but scary! / Breathtaking / fun, rickety, stomach turning, beautiful! / "I not going back down" "I'll never make it down"

It was common practice throughout the fire tower era to give tourists a card certifying
Marker & Summit Fire Tower image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, September 26, 2015
5. Marker & Summit Fire Tower
their visit atop an observation station. Image courtesy of Alica Altenburg, Allegany State Park Historical Society.
 
Location. 42° 7.548′ N, 78° 42.081′ W. Marker is in Salamanca, New York, in Cattaraugus County. Marker can be reached from Route ASP 1. Click for map. Marker is off of the trunk of a trail system for hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing in Allegany State Park. The trail head is at the summit on ASP route 1 between the city of Salamanca and the Red House area of the park. Marker is in this post office area: Salamanca NY 14779, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Sweet Water Spring (approx. 1.1 miles away); In Memory of Our Dead Comrades (approx. 2.1 miles away); Dedicated to Those from the Salamanca Area (approx. 2.8 miles away); From the Mountains of Afghanistan (approx. 2.8 miles away); These Gates Erected by Salamanca (approx. 2.8 miles away); Ski Jumping (approx. 2.9 miles away); Civilian Conservation Corps (approx. 3 miles away); Weather Station (approx. 3.1 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Salamanca.
 
Also see . . .  Friends of Allegany. (Submitted on September 27, 2015, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York.)
 
Categories. Charity & Public WorkDisastersEnvironment
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page has been viewed 203 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on , by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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