Thursday, August 26, 2021

Annual fire tower lighting happening Sept. 4

hurricane mountain

Friends of Hurricane will be participating again this year in the annual lighting of the fire towers.   This will be the 8th Annual Lighting of the Fire Towers which will include towers in the Adirondacks and the Catskills.  

A lantern will light the 102 year old Hurricane tower on Saturday, September 4th from 9 pm until 9:30 pm. 

People are invited to hike up and see the lighting at close range or view it from vantage points in Keene, Elizabethtown and areas to the east and near Lake Champlain.  The tower is also visible from multiple surrounding smaller peaks.

The event is meant to showcase the history of fire towers around the state.  They were erected early in the early 20th century, as fires ravaged hundreds of thousands of square miles of wild forest.

Anyone who is interested in helping with the lighting or has any questions about the lighting can contact Mary Jean Bland at

Photo by Mike Lynch/Adirondack Explorer

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Peter Slocum lives in Keene and is a trustee of the Essex County Historical Association and a volunteer at the North Star Underground Railroad Museum in Ausable Chasm.      

7 Responses

  1. louis curth says:

    I join Peter Slocum in a remembrance of our fire towers and also the fire tower observers, whose loyal service was the backbone of the forest ranger force, until the latter half of the 20th century when the DEC began to replace them with scheduled aerial detection flights.

    The lasting popularity of our fire towers has deep roots. For forest rangers like me, who came on during the extremely dry 1960s, we relied on our observers for spotting fires, but also for communications. Back then we relied almost entirely on telephone land lines which required frequent repair and maintenance by the rangers and observers all during fire season. We also had a few limited range WWII surplus radios which were replaced later in the 1960s by a more reliable radio system including new tower radios for the observers and new “lunch box portable radios” for every ranger – reliable radios at last!

    Times were changing for the rangers and the observers. Meanwhile, the popularity of fire towers as a destination for hikers just continued to grow and grow year after year. Fire tower observers became DECs mountain top ambassadors, welcoming visitors, answering their questions and even presenting them with a memento – a signed card attesting to their visit. Even today, many people still have these cards among family keepsakes.

    With this bygone era in mind, take a moment on Sept. 4th, at 9 PM, and salute our fire towers and the distinguished men and women who served as our forest fire observers and so much more.

  2. Thank you to all who are planning on participating, the Friends of Hurricane Fire Tower and 25 other statewide. A big thank you to Retired Forest Ranger Lou Curth for his wonderful comments that really embody the spirit of the event, it is an opportunity to salute the work of all fire tower Observer’s!

  3. Thanks to Louis Curth for adding that perspective on the vital communications role of the towers. You can still see a few metal poles that held the phone wire running up the east (observer) trail to Hurricane.
    Noting their role as “mountain top ambassadors,” the state began requiring observers to wear uniforms and fly the American flag back in the 1920’s. More than two dozen local men served as Hurricane observers over the years, and the Friends of Hurricane are planning to recognize them with a historic sign at the summit in coming years.

  4. John M. Gillen says:

    Peter, After 5 years in Sullivan County, NY, I transferred to Keeseville, NY as a Forest Ranger in1974, and lived there until 2014. I retired as the captain in Ray Brook and moved to southern Lancaster County in Pennsylvania in 2014. I see you’re interested in the Underground Railroad. I’d like to email you an article from the Lancaster Newspaper about an article on the Underground Railroad and the Christiana Historical Society and the Christiana Resistance of Sept. 11,1851.

    Hope you get this, and thanks for all you do…….John

  5. louis curth says:

    Laurie Rankin and the Forest Fire Lookout Assoc., Peter Slocum, via the Essex County Historical Association, and many other dedicated volunteers have succeeded in turning our remaining fire towers into living tributes to a pioneer forest fire detection system and the people whose made it succeed.

    To accomplish this feat, much hands-on, hard work is done annually. They maintain our remaining fire towers and keep them safe and open to the public. They also volunteer their time to greet hikers and visitors to the towers in the finest tradition of the original forest fire observers. Without their efforts, this colorful part of our state’s history would be lost forever. It is a job well done.

  6. Doug Fitzgerald says:

    Lou and John,
    Nice to see you comments here. Hope all is well with both of you.
    I have been working with the group restoring St. Regis. Check out our activities at
    Stay well.

  7. louis curth says:

    Hello Doug, Glad to see all the good work that you and the others are doing to bring the history of the fire towers and their rare breed of “watchers” to another generation.

    Like so many others, I have many good memories of St. Regis from my Smitty years. Also, from my time at Ray Brook when St. Regis Observer Eddie Samburgh helped us in his secret role as Smokey Bear for our special occasions.

    Good health Doug and good wishes to you. Lou

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