If you hike to the high places in West Virginia’s woods, you may spy a tall structure of wood or steel standing atop the summit. Likely, you have spotted the remnants of a fire lookout tower.
For a time, such towers were the country’s early warning system against wildfires.
The idea for a network of strategically located watchtowers was sparked by a savage wildfire that swept through the drought-stricken western United States. A U.S. Forest Service report on The Great Fire of 1910 said, “Hurricane-force winds, unlike anything seen since, roared across the rolling country of eastern Washington. Then on into Idaho and Montana forests that were so dry they crackled underfoot. In a matter of hours, fires became firestorms, and trees by the millions became exploding candles.” The inferno killed 86 people and incinerated 3 million acres in parts of Idaho, Montana, Washington and southeastern British Columbia.
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