Sierra Fire Lookout Photos


Delilah Lookout, elevation 5,176, is approximately 45 miles east of Fresno California in the Southern Sierras. Delilah was established in 1916 as a site for fire detection. It has seen several incarnations including a 50 foot metal tower with live-in cab constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937. In 1960 this structure was replaced with a 70 foot tall metal tower from Lemoore NAS. The lookout was staffed yearly, funded by both California State and the Forest Service until 1992. Since then it has been staffed during extreme fire danger and as the Forest Service budget allowed.
 



 

Park Ridge Lookout is located just east of Grant Grove, in Kings Canyon National Park. An easy 2 mile hike from Panoramic Point brings you to the base of the lookout which was established in 1916.

Park Ridge was originally an open air lookout with a lean-to shelter and a tent platform. The lookout was jointly managed by the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service until 1940 when the Park Service assumed sole responsibility. In 1964, the original wooden lookout, with lower living quarters, was replaced by the current 20 foot high, 14’ X 14’ steel tower and was moved ¼ mile SW of the original site.

The lookout was staffed continuously during fire seasons by Mattie Simms from 6-10-56 until her retirement on 10-29-74.  After Mattie, Parks Ridge was staffed sporadically due to budget cuts and was closed after fire season 1996.

Buck Rock Fire Lookout Located in the Sequoia National Forest, sits perched atop a granite dome and offers a breathtaking view of the Great Western Divide and other spectacular high mountain peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Access to the top is via a series of stair flights (consisting of 172 steps) suspended from the side of the rock. The current lookout building was constructed in 1923 and is historically significant as a representation of the earliest 4-A style live-in cabs of which there are only three in existence in the world today.

Prior to the current building, an open platform was situated on the top of the rock, which a patrol unit would climb onto to scan for smokes using only binoculars, a compass, and a map. Spotting a smoke, he would quickly descend, hop on his horse and chase down the fire. In 1914, a telephone was installed and a phone line between Pinehurst and Buck Rock was carried by mules and restrung at the beginning of each season. If you look closely, you can see the old ceramic phone line connectors in the trees below the lookout.

Originally, only long slim tree trunks with boards nailed across for steps led to the top. A series of ladders for climbing to the lookout came next, and finally in 1942, a stairway with 172 steps built by Frank Fowler and crew was added to ease the climb. By the 1980‘s, electricity replaced gas and wood as a source of energy, and today the lookout enjoys many of the modern conveniences of most homes.

The first fire watcher was Buck McGee, who staffed the lookout for several years until Walker Parker took over in 1927. Walker got hooked on lookout life and worked on several other local lookouts throughout the 1930’s, including Stag Dome, Cahoon Rock, Park Ridge, Bear Mountain, and Delilah.  Leatrice Evinger Dotters was the first lady lookout, and worked at Buck Rock from D-Day (June 6th) through October 31st 1944 without ever leaving for home. Helen Carter Allen was the lookout during the 1960’s – there was still a crank phone, a huge refrigerator and a double bed, which left very little space for anything else. But Helen managed to find just enough room for her companion – a beautiful, bur large husky dog.

During the 1970’s Hume Lake patrols and Engine 32 worked on improving the lookout building by adding new shutters, siding, interior cabinets and map counters, and a very convenient “dutch door”. Luther Gordon was the fire watcher during much of the 1980’s. The marmots were quite active that year, and after finding his vehicle’s electrical system munched on by the cute but destructive creatures, Luther found a system to keep the marmots at bay. A system that is legendary, but one we won’t go into that here…

By the early 1990’s the steps to the lookout were about worn out (and a bit dangerous to climb) so Lakeshore Engine32 Captain Mark Sorenson and his crew set about replacing the 172 steps and the catwalk with all new wood and materials. Their craftsmanship is still very much appreciated by those who currently staff and visit Buck Rock. The crew from Lakeshore Engine 32, continue the tradition of helping with maintenance at the lookout. The lookout was closed for a period of about 10 years during the late 1980’s and throughout much of the 1990’s. In 1999, with the help of the Buck Rock Foundation, Buck Rock was re-established as a primary location for fire detection and has been staffed seven days a week ever since. Well, except for those few days in 2002 when it was “condemned” due to a deteriorating brace that was supporting a landing about 300 feet above ground. Thanks to FS Engineer Sheldon Perkins, contractor John Porter and the Hume Lake District’s pocket book, the landing was repaired – just in time for our annual July 4th Open House Celebration!

Milk Ranch fire lookout at 9,000 foot Cahoon Rock on the south fork of the Kings River the highest lookout station in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

 





Jordan Peak Fire Lookout has the distinction of quite possibly being the oldest lookout site in Sequoia National Forest. Dudley, in 1899, reported seeing a dozen fires burning from the summit of Jordan Peak in 1898. This may have not have been a true fire report, however. There is indication that it was used as a lookout observation post around 1914, when a smoke chaser would ride his horse to the peak and make observations using his compass, binoculars and a map.

Jordan Lookout shows up on the 1916 Sequoia National Forest map, although shown in the wrong quarter section. The original lookout may have been on a higher point northeast of the existing cab. The lookout was a 14x14 live in cab on 14 foot long timbers that made the tower. The current lookout was constructed in 1934 and is a modified L-4 style live in cab that measures 13 ½ x 13 ½ inside. The roof is a Hip-2 style and all of the materials were hauled in by pack animals. The 20 foot steel tower originally had open bracing, but in 1970, the tower was enclosed with metal siding. A cement staircase goes straight up on the outside of the structure. The lookout is considered a landmark for cattle ranchers.

 

Mule Peak Fire Lookout,  in the Tule River Ranger District. was established in 1936 as a primary fire detection facility, Mule Peak Lookout was constructed on a rocky peak at elevation 8,142 feet. The C-3 live-in cab was built by the CCC’s who packed all the materials in by horseback. To this day, all materials and supplies must be packed in the 1.25 miles from the parking area or delivered by helicopter. There is a small gable roofed shed built near the base of the lookout. The lookout is in good condition considering the early construction date, and very little remodeling has been done. A 1988 evaluation, gave Mule Peak a rating of 19 of a possible 30, and just makes the list of lookouts eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

 



Bald Mountain Lookout, in the Cannell Meadow Ranger District, is located at
elevation 9,382 feet - off the Sherman Pass Road near Black Rock Station in the southeastern most portion of the Sequoia National Forest. It first appears on the 1935 Inyo National Forest map, but was abandoned when a lookout at Sherman Peak was built in 1936. The site saw use again in 1951 and the current structure was constructed in 1954. The lookout structure consists of a CL-100 live-in style cab with a flat low roof sitting on a metal tower.

Turn onto FS Road 22S77 and drive 2 miles to a parking area. Hike ½ mile through a botanical area to the lookout.

 



Tobias Peak Lookout, in the Hot Springs District was first used as a lookout observation point sometime around 1912. A mortar building was constructed on Tobias Peak around this time and was used as a Ranger Outpost and Lookout site. When Sunday Peak Lookout was built circa 1921, Tobias Peak became “inactive” as a lookout until 1935, when the Forest Service decided Tobias Peak was the better location due to its blocking the view from Sunday Peak. Sunday Peak Lookout no longer stands. Considered a hazard, it was burned down by the Forest Service in 1954.

The current Tobias Peak Lookout was built in 1935 by the CCC’s and is a “C-3” type 14x14’ live-in lookout. Supplies and building materials were brought in by mules and horses on a hard trail. In the early days of Tobias Peak a person had to park whatever brought them there in a flat area about one tenth of a mile from the actual tower. Today the road has been extended to within 30 yards of the tower, which leaves an easy climb for all. Currently this lookout is only operated during emergency situations and may not be open to the public.

Go 3 miles to FR24S24 junction and turn right approximately 1 mile to sign indicating Tobias Peak and turn right traveling for 1 mile through the bottom gate to parking and a short walk to the tower. The last four miles are dirt roads.

 


Breckenridge Fire Lookout, in the Greenhorn Ranger District, is at elevation 7,548 feet - is the southern most lookout on the Sequoia National Forest. It is located approximately 50 miles east of Bakersfield off of the Caliente-Bodfish Road. This fire detection location was established in 1912; the original lookout being a “crows nest” observation platform in a tree on the top of the mountain. The current lookout – a “C-3” style live-in cab, was built in 1942 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and as such is considered a historically significant structure.

Go past Havilah and turn right onto FS Road 28S06 and follow the signs to Breckenridge Lookout.

 

 


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