before the Texas Forest Service started using airplanes to spot forest fires,
men climbed to the highest pine tree they could find, preferably one sitting atop
Fire spotting trees were seldom effective, especially when winds
swayed the pines, causing some spotters to become sick.
So the Forest
Service began building metal lookout towers at strategic locations in the forests.
Fire spotters then had to climb long stairways before they reached cabs at the
top of each towers.
TE photo, 2009
|The towers were more
effective, but teenagers on a lark were prone to climb the towers, too. Some threw
items on cars traveling on nearby roads.|
Next, the Forest Service turned
to an even better way to spot fires--by airplanes which could fly higher, go anywhere
the pilot pleased, and had mobile connections with ground forces who could move
faster to fire sites.
Today, the planes are still flying--and some of
the old lookout towers are still standing, but are rarely used. Mostly, they’re
relics of another era and one has become a part of the Texas Forest Museum at
Lufkin, surrounded by a logging
train and other memorabilia from sawmills and logging camps.
tower at Lufkin has also been altered
to prevent access by would-be climbers, but a lookout cab once used on another
tower is displayed inside the Museum’s main building.
Towers such as the
one at Lufkin were constructed
by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936 and used from the thirties until they
were phased out in the l970s.
tower, which was moved from its site near Conroe
in 1976, is part of an array of early equipment used by the forest products industry,
including a 1908 locomotive and tender, a 1902 caboose made by the Angelina
& Neches River Railroad, a steam log-loader which could pivot on its railroad
car, a 1946 log truck, a 1950s road grader, a railroad depot from Camden
in Polk County, and a derrick car used by a railroad to handle bridge timbers.
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