The 1910 Great Fire killed 85 people and burned three million acres in northern Idaho, western Montana, eastern Washington and southeast British Columbia.
Afterwards, the U.S. Forest Service (and, starting in 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps), eventually built more than 5,000 fire lookout towers across the country. Some are one-room cabins on stilts, others are simply cabins on mountain tops.
Fire spotters would sit in the cabin and look for lightning strikes and smoke plumes, typically monitoring a 20-mile radius around the tower. By the late 1930s there were more than 800 manned towers, but this number dropped to 250 by 1964. (Editor’s note: Some of the towers are still standing and campers can sign up to stay in them. Accommodations are rustic: the outhouse is generally a climb down, and all supplies have to be brought in, but they provide exceptional views.)
Today there’s an updated way for civilians to become a fire spotter, by going to AlertWildfire Click here , a website created by the Los Angeles Fire Department that tracks and monitors potential fire dangers. Locally, there are multiple cameras at Green Peak, Mountain Gate, San Vicente (above Mandeville), Temescal Canyon, Topanga Canyon and Westridge.
“We want to promote the website, so that if people have time, they can also help to keep eyes on the cameras,” said Cindy Yao, treasurer of SophiaGrace Foundation, a small nonprofit foundation that supports the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation click here. “The cameras are live.”
In a May 4 email to CTN, Yao wrote, “As you know, brush fires are becoming all too common in Los Angeles. Every year, LAFD encourages property owners to comply with brush clearance and we brace ourselves for high winds and potential fire dangers.
“The AlertWildfire website is open to the public and you do not need special permission from the LAFD to monitor it,” Yao said. “As we head into summer and fire season, it would be so helpful to have more eyes on our mountains and hillsides.”