April 17, 2014

WA State History – The Fire Lookout Builders

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire”, so they say. Roadside signs here in Washington state give the forest fire danger level each summer and fall. They say it rains here in Washington all the time, and the locals let you believe that so we don’t have more people moving here, but the truth is, it gets pretty dry by late July and lasts into August and September at times. Forest fires have always been a part of life here in the Pacific Northwest, and always will be.

My first memory of my dad working for the State Forestry Service was when I was about 5 or 6. Of course, I took it more personally because when Dad was away on a job Mom would let us have cool things like pancakes for supper. Looking at it as an adult, I imagine that Dad probably hated those jobs building fire lookouts for the State. It was darn hard work, even for a young guy in his 30′s. One of his recollections says when he worked at the fire lookout in Raymond, “It rained every day!”.

The reason this topic is even on my family history radar is because I am transcribing a list of jobs my dad worked on throughout his life as a carpenter. In that list he mentions several of the lookouts he helped build, and I was just astounded at the sheer number of them. Some had been built decades before and were being upgraded in the mid-1950′s when he was involved, but some might have been new construction.

Somewhere, I think we might have a picture or two of some lookouts he worked on, but I found a really nifty site today that lists some of the lookouts with pictures of them when they were still in service. The website is: 

The photos on the page are indexed and I would like to show some of them here, but they are private and only viewable on the pages.

Here is a link to some of the WA state lookout towers by region. A few that Dad (W. G. Yates) worked on are: Squally Jim at Pe Ell; Entwhistle (Dad’s first job for the Forestry); Coyote Mountain; Crawford Mountain; Deep Creek, Ladd Mountain, Raymond, Capitol Peak (gone now; Dad said you could see the Pacific Ocean on a clear day!); Elk Rock – near Mt. St. Helens; and even one here in Port Orchard. The logo above is from Rex’s site and I have made it a link to his main page if you would like to give him a visit.

This is just tiny glimpse into one man’s work accomplishments and contributions. Dad was of the G.I. Generation since he was born in 1920 and a WWII veteran. I miss him every day.

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