Adirondack Fire Towers Northern Districts - Purple Mountain Press


by Martin Podskoch

These elevations had fire towers in the northern districts: Adams Mountain, Ampersand Mountain, Arab Mountain, Azure Mountain, Belfry Mountain, Boreas Mountain, Cat Mountain, Catamount Mountain, Debar Mountain, Dunn Brook Mountain, Goodnow Mountain, Hurricane Mountain, Loon Lake Mountain, Lyon Mountain, Makomis Mountain, Moosehead Mountain, Mount Morris, Palmer Hill, Pharaoh Mountain, Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain, St. Regis Mountain, Tooley Pond Mountain, Vanderwhacker Mountain, Whiteface Mountain, Whites Hill, Meenagha Hill (private tower)

Read the first chapter: Adams Mountain--1912"

Fire towers are an essential element in the history of New York State having stood for nearly a century as guardians of the vast woodlands in the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains. While lightning had always been a threat to the forests, it was not until the late 19th century with the advent of the railroads serving new communities and expanding tourism that forest fires became a serious threat to life and property. Locomotives shot burning cinders and sparks starting fires that reached into the forests where loggers had left treetops and limbs, ready fuel for what became gigantic fires that destroyed thousands of acres, drove people from their homes, and darkened the skies in distant cities. In 1903 and 1908 the destruction was disastrous and the state was spurred by public pressure to create a new, more effective system to contain the rampant flames.

In 1909 the state began to erect primitive lookout stations with observers on duty throughout the fire season perched atop crude log towers with open platforms. The observers lived in tents or log cabins nearby. Over the next decade these lookout stations evolved into metal towers with enclosed cabs rising as much as 70' above the forest floor. Later, cabins were built to provide durable homes and the towers became a preferred destination for generations of hikers who would climb the towers for the panoramic views and listen to the lore of the nature-wise observers.

Marty Podskoch has become the chronicler of the history and lore of the fire towers of the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains. His interest in the subject was aroused in 1987 when he visited the tower on Hunter Mountain in the Catskills. The observer was so enthusiastic about and proud of his work protecting the forests and educating the public on fire prevention that he inspired Marty to learn more about the towers. His research has taken him thousands of miles throughout the mountains of New York visiting the observers, the forest rangers who supervised the towers, and their families and friends as he gathered stories and pictures about their adventures "on the mountain."

Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, the Northern Districts covers the 26 fire towers in the northern part of the Adirondack Park that includes St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton, and Essex Counties. The book contains many hundreds of human-interest stories the author has gathered in personal interviews, and hundreds of photographs. Danger flashes down in lightning bolts that fry telephones and make hair stand on end! Porcupines gnaw everything! Bears abound! Families survive nicely in tiny cabins, and always the towers stand and sway in wind and rain staffed by men and women dedicated to preserving our precious wilderness.

Meet the author, Marty Podskoch

256 pages, 465 illustrations, 8.5 x 11, 2005
$20.00 paperback--A Purple Mountain Press original

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Copyright © 2005 Purple Mountain Press. All rights reserved.