Wednesday, February 21, 2018

DCNR Initiative To Replace, Renovate Fire Towers Across The State

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn Wednesday announced newly renovated and replaced fire towers will be added to the Commonwealth’s wildfire fighting arsenal to support the Bureau of Forestry and volunteer fire company efforts answering forest fire calls across the state.
"We must always take wildfires seriously. That’s why I’m delighted to note our Pennsylvania wildfire fighters are getting yet another weapon in their detection and suppression efforts -- a new tool with a rich, storied past in the form of newly constructed fire towers,” said Dunn. Pennsylvania’s wildfire fighting force is viewed as among the best in the nation, and for good reason. They have excellent training; the latest equipment; and a ‘can do’ spirit that sets them apart when they fly out to help other states or fight wildfires here in the woodlands of Pennsylvania.”
In September 2017, DCNR began a $4.6 million Department of General Services capital project to replace 16 forest fire lookout towers on state forestland. Many of the original towers still in operation today were constructed in the 1920s through 1940 and needed to be replaced.
The new fire towers are sturdier to meet today’s structural and foundation code requirements. They will be safer to ascend, with improved stairs and railings, and be topped with weather-proof cabs.
“Mountaintop fire towers continue to provide an excellent vantage point for spotting wildfire smoke along the horizon and conveying fire locations to bureau-led firefighting crews,” Dunn noted. “We still use aviation, but its costs and insurance rates for these flights have made fire towers more economically feasible. Fire detection relies on fire towers, aviation, and people on the ground. We don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket.”
Considering their historical significance, at least one of the original fire towers will be carefully dismantled and repurposed at other locations.
In Delaware State Forest, the original tower at Big Pocono State Park, Monroe County, has been delivered to the grounds of Gifford Pinchot’s summer residence at the U.S.D.A. Forest Service’s Grey Towers National Historic Site in Milford.
Though winter weather crimped replacement work, construction will be resuming close to Pennsylvania’s Wildfire Prevention Week, March 3-10.  
DCNR issues an annual warning of springtime danger when bright sun, strong winds, and warming temperatures quickly can increase wildfire dangers across Pennsylvania’s forests and brush lands.  
Statistics show nearly 85 percent of Pennsylvania’s wildfires occur in March, April and May, before the greening of state woodlands and brushy areas. Named for rapid spread through dormant, dry vegetation, under windy conditions, wildfires annually scorch nearly 7,000 acres of state and private woodlands.
Besides the Big Pocono tower, others targeted for replacement include: Tamarack, Coffin Rock and Snowshoe, in Sproul State Forest; Rockton, Chestnut Ridge (Knobs), Rattlesnake, Summit and Black Hills, Moshannon; Dry Land, Mehoopany and Bear Springs, Pinchot; Brooks Run and Bootjack, Elk; and Bears Head and Mauch Chunk, Weiser.
A key component of the tower replacement projects is coordination with radio and data communication antenna systems.
Because of their location and elevation, many of the towers will be outfitted with various state and federal radio communication antenna systems. These towers are anticipated to remain safe and functional for many decades.
Secretary Dunn noted DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry is responsible for prevention and suppression of wildfires on the Commonwealth’s 17 million acres of state and private woodlands and brush lands.
The bureau maintains a fire-detection system, and works with fire wardens and volunteer fire departments to ensure they are trained in the latest advances in fire prevention and suppression.  
DCNR owns 50 fire towers that are still standing. Many were removed in the 1970s and 1980s. About 20 still are actively staffed in periods of high fire danger, and that number will grow as replacements come online.
Click Here to watch a video of a visit to a now retired 87.5 foot fire tower in Cook Forest State Park, Clarion County, built in 1929.
More information about wildfires is available by visiting DCNR’s Wildfire webpage.
For more information on state parks and forests and recreation in Pennsylvania, visit DCNR’s website, Click Here to sign up for the Resource newsletter, Visit the Good Natured DCNR Blog,  Click Here for upcoming events, Click Here to hook up with DCNR on other social media-- Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.
(Photo: Fire tower at Bald Eagle State Forest, Union County)

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner