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Beautiful video on the history of fire lookouts – and fire! – highlights lots of US govt publications and records

Ever since I read Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums so many moons ago, I’ve been fascinated with fire lookouts. So I was delighted to run across this beautiful video by Aidin Robbins “Life as the Last Fire Lookout.” He does a great job explaining the history of fire lookouts through his interview with Russ Dalton, one of the last fire watchers, and explains how these structures have largely disappeared into the mists of history and why the remaining ones need to be preserved. But one of the best things I got from Robbins’ video was a long bibliography of US Forest Service documents and archival records from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) that he helpfully listed in the description of this youtube video — and at least 2 of which are UNREPORTED documents that I’ve just submitted!

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

1 Comment

  1. Well it seems like the human fire lookout is not quite ready for the dustbin of history. Check out this article in today’s NY Times “America’s Fire Spotters Aren’t Ready to Fade Away Just Yet” (gift NYT article)

    Today the service staffs just 71 lookouts in Washington and Oregon; 59 in California; and 52 in Montana, northern Idaho and northwest Wyoming, Mr. Owen said. Nationwide, including lookouts run by other federal, state and local agencies, perhaps 300 are in service, according to Gary Weber, treasurer of the Forest Fire Lookout Association, a preservation group. Of the others still standing, many are now vacation rentals.

    And yet, as officials in northwest Montana will tell you, there are reasons the lookout isn’t ready to disappear into the history books. Not completely. Not yet.

    For Mr. Haugen’s job is not merely to locate fires, though he says he can do this in a wider range of conditions than helicopters (which can’t hover safely in thunderstorms), more precisely in some cases than planes (which can’t easily maneuver in narrow valleys) and more accurately at times than satellites (which can mistake sun-warmed rocks for fires).

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