photos courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
It’s not every day that you get a 360-degree view of the forest. That was the idea, of course, when the U.S. Forest Service began building fire lookout towers after a slew of devestating fires hit the western states in 1910. It was part of a larger effort to aid in early fire detection. At one point, there were reportedly more than 8,000 fire lookouts in the country and every fire season, lookout operators would report fires using whatever technology they had at the time. In 1911, USFS forester William Bushnell Osborne, Jr. invented a “firefinder” in Oregon. The instrument used a rotating steel disc with attached sighting mechanisms to pinpoint coordinates.