“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Yellowstone National Park in Park County, Wyoming — The American West (Mountains)

Life in a Fire Tower

Life in a Fire Tower Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, July 28, 2015
1. Life in a Fire Tower Marker
Beginning in the early 1900s, fire towers were built across the nation to protect the forest resources from uncontrolled wildland fire.

These towers were manned by rugged individuals who spent their days alone searching the horizon with binoculars for “starts.” When a “smoke” was seen, coordinates were taken using an azimuth (a devise that determines a compass bearing), and the fire lookout sounded the alarm, originally by a hand-cranked phone and later by short-wave radio. Although the philosophy of wildland fire management has changed significantly in the 100 years since fire towers were first built, they continue to be staffed in Yellowstone today.

In late June, after snows melt enough to allow access, lone individuals or “lookouts” move into Yellowstone’s fire towers for the summer/fall fire season. The lookout stays the entire season with no days off and is re-supplied with food, water, and fuel (if necessary) every two weeks. Limited electricity at Mt. Washburn supports extensive telecommunications equipment and provides the luxury of electric heat and appliances. At the other park fire towers, propane fuels a small refrigerator and cook stove, and a wood stove is used for heating. Leisure time is spent reading, writing, and listening to the radio. By October, the first
Life in a Fire Tower Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, July 28, 2015
2. Life in a Fire Tower Marker
snowstorms have dusted the trees, the fire tower can be shuttered and locked for winter, and the lookout descends the mountain to resume a more typical existence at lower elevations.

Since the 1970s, most towers across the United States have been abandoned and replaced by aircraft, which can monitor larger areas more cheaply. However, three fire lookout towers are still staffed in Yellowstone – this tower on Mt. Washburn, one on Mt. Holmes (located to the west), and a tower on Mt. Sheridan (located to the south). A fourth tower on Pelican Cone (located to the southeast) is staffed when the fire danger is high in the Pelican Valley area.
Location. 44° 47.848′ N, 110° 26.03′ W. Marker is in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, in Park County. Marker can be reached from Chittendon Road, on the left when traveling east. Click for map. Marker is located at the tower on the summit of Mt. Washburn. Marker is in this post office area: Yellowstone National Park WY 82190, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Mt. Washburn Trail (approx. 1.9 miles away); A Golden Opportunity / Mission 66 in Yellowstone / The Mission Continues (approx. 5.2 miles away); Mission 66 (approx. 5.2 miles away); Shifting Ground
View from near the marker image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, July 28, 2015
3. View from near the marker
(approx. 5.3 miles away); Inspiration Point (approx. 5.3 miles away); Grand View (approx. 5.7 miles away); The Grand Canyon Of The Yellowstone (approx. 5.7 miles away); The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (approx. 5.7 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Yellowstone National Park.
More about this marker. A Photograph at the top of the marker shows the “living quarters” of the tower. It has a caption of “A one-room glass house provides the lookout with all the comforts of home: a bed, simple kitchen, and an unsurpassed ‘backyard’ view.” Below this to the left is a photo of a “Fire lookout ranger with azimuth.” On the right side of the marker is a photo of another fire tower, with a caption of “The fire tower on Mt. Sheridan is like many of the historic fire towers in the West, which were built in the 1930s using available natural materials. These historic structures are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.”
Categories. Notable Buildings
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 103 times since then and 29 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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