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Forest fire lookout stations established

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

“Fire lookout stations are the new patrol on the national forests,” according to a paper written in October 1912 by Medicine Bow National Forest Supervisor C. M. Granger.

In part the report relates:

“The Supervisor of the Medicine Bow National Forest was arranging the papers on his desk preparatory to closing the office at the end of a hot summer day in August, when the telephone bell rang sharply.

“‘Hello,’ he said, answering the call. ‘Yes. This is the supervisor … Where is it? … south 25 degrees east, about the mouth of South Spring Creek. All right. You stay on the lookout and report at intervals until I can get a hold of Hamilton and find out about it. Goodbye.’

“‘Hello, Central, get me the Keystone Ranger Station on the Forest Service line, please. Hello, Hamilton? This is Brown. Miller has just reported a small smoke about the mouth of South Spring Creek. Please visit with your lookout tower and see if you can locate the fire. If you can’t see it from there go further west, and let me know what it is and what you will have to do about it, if anything.’

“The foregoing conversation took place at five o’clock in the afternoon. At six o’clock that same night the Supervisor was again called to the telephone.

“‘Hello,’ said Hamilton, the ranger. ‘That smoke came from a ranch where they are burning sagebrush. The wind is strong from the west and drifted the smoke up Spring Creek canyon, making it look to Miller as if it might be coming from a fire in the canyon. I can see the fire clearly here from my lookout, and it is west of the river, and can’t possibly get across to the forest.’

“‘Fine,’ said the Supervisor. ‘I’ll tell Miller to come down off the peak.’

“Within the space of 60 minutes a fire which apparently threatened a fine stand of timber on the Medicine Bow National Forest had been discovered, reported to headquarters, investigated and located. All the forest officers concerned with the protection of that timber stand knew of the fire and its location.

“When it is known that the Medicine Bow Forest covers over 800 square miles, and that every foot of it must be protected from fire, the advantage of a rapid-fire system of discovery and location of fires is apparent. The prevention of fire on the National Forests has always been the chief duty of the men of the Forest Service, but it is only of recent times that they have perfected the system of patrol to the point where such prompt action as that described above is possible.”

In 1902 the government took control of forest management and forest rangers were looking for the most efficient way to spot and report fires. Thus the lookout tower was conceived, but then that’s fuel for another Postcard.

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