On Friday night August 29th, and Saturday August 30th, the 2nd annual lighting of the fire towers was a great success. Many folks gathered at neighborhood spots to try and view their favorite fire tower on the horizon. This event is meant to showcase the history of the five Catskill fire towers and some of our other friends around the state. Remember that these towers were watching faithfully over your property for years to help prevent forest fires. The men and women who were in those cabs were there to protect your property from forest fires by providing fire fighters with an early detection and reporting system that was amazingly accurate. Check out the photos!
Fire observers once watched the forests of New York State and the Catskill Mountains from 108 towers, searching for the dangerous tell tale signs of forest fires. In the 1,102 square-mile Catskill Park, only 5 steel towers built between 1917 and 1927 remain. From west to east in the Catskill Park they are:
The last fire tower observer ended his watch on Red Hill in 1989. Observers, whether men or women, were an independent lot, and many colorful stories have grown up around them and the towers. Marty Podskoch’s new book, Fire Towers of the Catskills, tells many of these stories and takes a closer look at not only these five towers, but the other eighteen towers that were used in the six-county Catskill Region. The book is available through the Catskill Center or Purple Mountain Press.
To raise money to stabilize and restore these towers, The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development have joined together in creating the Catskill Fire Tower Restoration Project. With the help of citizen groups, private industry and individuals, the restoration project sought donations of money and materials, and sold patches and T-shirts. At the same time, local volunteer groups formed around each fire tower to address the details and special local concerns and to help raise awareness and support for the towers.
Once the towers were stabilized and restored, they were reopened to the public. The five towers vary not only in height, but other features as well.
Each tower was restored keeping its historic structure intact. Eventually, volunteer or seasonal tower interpreters will also man the towers, allowing the cab to be open for visitors on weekends. If you are interested in volunteering to staff a tower for a day or a weekend (between Memorial and Columbus Days), please contact the Catskill Center at (845) 586-2611 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. This will entail providing interpretive information about the towers themselves, the surrounding landscape, and the Catskill Forest Preserve.