Fire Tower

By: Jason Davis
By: Jason Davis

Some folks believe a tropical storm or a hurricane may be the only thing that will give us some relief from our current drought. Until those dry conditions subside, forestry officials will continue to keep a vigilant watch over the region's timberlands.

Five days a week for the last 15 years, Crystal Crocker climbs 10 flights of stairs. Crocker spends seven hours a day watching over the forest in Calhoun County. She's a lookout for the Division of Forestry.

From the tower Crocker can see about eight miles in all directions, if visibility is clear. If she sees smokes, a device called an Alidad allows her to pinpoint the location. She then radios that information to dispatch.

"If it's dry weather like we have now, we send a ranger out right away."

Sadly, Crocker is one of the last of her kind.

Every year the number of fire watch personnel goes down. It's not because they can't find people to climb 10 flights of stairs daily basis. Technology and land development could one day make this job obsolete.

"It's a dying breed. They're taking our towers down. What we have is airplanes. They fly over and check the districts and also with the population building and everybody with cell phones. They're very good about calling in if they see smoke."

Crocker admits the job lacks glamour, but lately her office in the air has helped firefighters get a jump on things.

"It's exciting right now, but on the norm it's very boring. I just eat a lot of popcorn and candy."

Smokey the Bear would be proud. They are eight manned "fire watch towers" in our viewing area. Ten years ago there were more than twice that number.


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