Saturday, October 6, 2012

Life as a fire lookout

Wildfires are on my mind a lot right now.  The Northwest is having an especially long dry spell plus it has been windy these past few days and predicted to stay that way through the weekend.  It's scary dry here.  It is still very much wildfire season.

I just saw this video on Portland Hikers that has some great footage of life in a fire lookout.

When I was a sweet young thing, one of my fantasies was to be a fire lookout.  I never managed to make it happen.  I am not so sure that I would have liked it.   I don't think the reality of that life was very much a part of my fantasy, although I think I would have enjoyed the solitude and I think I would also have enjoyed "playing house" in a fire lookout.  But the lack of fresh food and the difficulty of hauling water would be big issues and some of the work was probably beyond a small woman.

I've read a couple of books about life as a fire lookout.  One of them is about Gary Snyder and his beat poet friends who worked as fire lookouts in the North Cascades.  That was in the fifties, the hey day of fire lookout history.  It's a great book with wonderful black and white photos.  The book is called "Poets on the Peaks" and it is by John Suiter.  I just looked for it on Amazon and it must be out of print.  There are some copies available, but for a high price.

  link to 'Poets on the Peaks' at Amazon

The other fire lookout book I've read is called "Fire Lookouts of the Northwest" and it is by Ray Kresek.  It must be out of print too because it is also really expensive at Amazon.

 link to 'Fire Lookouts of the Northwest' on Amazon

This book has hundreds of fire lookout experiences with black and white photos, most of them from the fifties.  Most of the stories are pretty amazing.  Some of them are funny and some are tragic.  There was the fire lookout in Southern Oregon who felt his building swaying and looked out to see an elephant rubbing against his foundation.  There are many stories of fierce and frightening, and even deadly, lightning storms.  Fire lookouts were furnished with a lightning stool which is a wooden stool with big glass insulators on its legs.  During a lightning storm, the fire lookout stood on the lightning stool to keep from being electrocuted.  The air was so charged that your hair would stand on end and you would often get shocks.  I certainly would not have liked that.

Here is a photo of me standing on a lightning stool in a fire lookout.  I would like to have my own lightning stool.

I did get to stay in a real fire lookout once when we rented one for a few days.  That photo was taken then.  It was a cool experience.   The fire lookout had been beautifully restored by a group of people who just love fire lookouts.  The view was great.   You can see our photos here if you are interested.

Fire lookout stay

No comments: