Saturday, September 10, 2011
what happens when you abandon your watchtowers? destruction
it's quite amazing to me: nobody said a peep when the california division of forestry closed 80 firelookout towers about ten years ago. i still can't believe it. and the united states forest service closing more all the time (three on this forest this summer). where are these officials' heads? (i decline to express the obvious.)
in the past week a thousand homes burned near austin texas, a state that quit watching over itself years ago. you know what i hear? satellites, areal observation, both lies, foisted on the public. the first very expensive and as far as i know, a pie in the sky can't tell the difference between a campfire and a car engine. this is not a lighthouse situation. here the light flashes at me, and all too quickly.
another example. i worked on angora lookout at lake tahoe, closed in 2002. five years ago a fire one mile from the lookout burned 90 million dollar homes. had the tower been staffed, they'd have known right away that it wasn't a control burn, that it took off like a bat out of hell. friends who live on the ridge above watched the ashes settle on their roof as they packed up their cars, just in case. a fire changes everything.
of course, it's a numbers game. you gamble a large fire won't happen, in order to save pennies, and i mean minuscule amounts of money. almost fifty years up here and i have: no benefits, no retirement, no step raises, and earn 14 dollars an hour. you can't get much cheaper than that. one bulldozer equals 5 observation booths. which is more likely to save your home?
yes, yes, we love our machines. for a few years after california closed its lookouts they paid 6 million dollars a day (so i heard) for a gigantic dc10 airtanker that couldn't hit a bird in a barn. and everybody assumes we've been closed down for years, the last watchers those who announced the fall of troy and the irish towers shouting the arrival of viking ships.
check out the forest fire lookout association: http://www.firelookout.org/ fine folks dedicated to preserving and re-constructing towers.
and i've many pictures of lookoutlife: http://www.pbase.com/wwp/lookoutlife
the angora fire images http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=angora+fire&qpvt=angora+fire&FORM=IGRE
news from texas http://www.cbsnews.com/i/tim/2011/04/21/es_0421_TEXAS_FIRE_copy_480x360.jpg