July 2010 - Ron Kemnow photo
September 22, 1929: "the platform on a large tree at American Camp, now in use as the lookout station, will be replaced during the winter months by a modern 50 foot steel tower with a glass enclosure, according to word given out by Supervisor J.R. Hall of the local forest service this week. The material will be furnished by the state forest service and will be installed by the local forest service. Each will pay half the salary of the person to be employed as lookout during the dry season." (Oakland Tribune)
February 11, 1930: "The station to be completed for use during this year's fire season, it was announced today by State Forester M.B. Pratt." (San Mateo Times)
February 16, 1930: "The first lookout tower to be erected in Tuolumne County by the state forestry department is being constructed this week at American Camp Peak by a crew of five state forest rangers, under the supervision of Inspector A.E. Frost of Sacramento. This tower, which will be a modern 60-foot lookout station, is on one of the highest peaks in the county, and will overlook the entire county and portions of Calaveras county." (Oakland Tribune)
March 28, 1932: "The body of J.H. Kling, 53, prospector and fire lookout, crushed by a cave-in in a mine tunnel near Rose Creek, fifteen miles north of here, was found yesterday by Robert Cuney, another prospector.
The slide apparently had occurred March 16, as a calender in Kling's cabin was last marked for March 15. Kling served three years as American Camp lookout for the Stanislaus National Forest Service and mined during the winter." (Modesto News-Herald)
2008: The Crane Flat Lookout was scheduled to be closed from July 28 through September 5 for repairs and renovation.
1914 - J.T. Jardine photo, Stanislaus National Forest Collection
August 5, 1921: "Big game makes life exciting for a lookout. Bear at eve and lion at dewy morn result in a cold breakfast
Life became quite exciting for P.G. Pimentel, Lookout on Duckwall Mt. when a few days ago he was taking his evening stroll about a mile from his tower he encountered a huge bear also taking a stroll. Pimentel did not hesitate to make tracks for home at once and at a much faster gait than usual leaving bruin all the room he needed. While still very much perturbed over the meeting with the bear, Pimentel arose early the next morning, prepared to chop some wood for his morning meal. Looking up from the pile he gazed full into the hungry eyes of a mountain lion. Men are always brave persons but Pimentel seems to have no hesitancy in saying that he was glad to get even a cold breakfast that morning. Now he wants an extra set of Yale locks on his cabin door and is thinking seriously of moving his bed to the top of his lookout tower." (California District News Letter)
June 2010 - Ron Kemnow photo
October 2, 1925: "On September 9 at 7:15 P.M. the lookout on Mt. Elizabeth reported a smoke on Hunters Bend. As this is an extremely hazardous fire country Guard Tony Siscronn of Wet Meadows was sent to find the fire. He mounted his horse and rode for four long hours in the dark before coming to the top of the hills where he could look across the Toulumne River. What he saw was some electric lights, on the right-of-way of the railroad of the San Francisco and Hetch Hetchy water supply project.
Tony says he doesn't mind chasing smokes in the Forest, but that when he chases electric lights he prefers to do it in town. -- E.P. - Stanislaus." (California District News Letter)
January 15, 1928: "Work of constructing a Forest Service road from the Longeway ranch, above Belleview, to the ranger lookout station at the top of Mt. Elizabeth, will be begun within a short time, according to word from the forest office here.
At the present time there is no road of any kind up to the station, which makes it quite difficult to carry water and supplies to the lookout." (Modesto News-Herald)
November 6, 1932: "From Atop a mountain peak, H.A. Crowe, forest ranger, perhaps gets to see more of California landscape at one time than any other person in this state.
Spread before his gaze on clear days are 2600 square miles of California terrain--but then that's his business to see lots of territory.
For Crowe ia a fire-spotter and his home is a box-like room dizzily resting atop a 52-foot tower at Mount Elizabeth lookout station, five miles north of Confidence, Tuolumne County.
For five months this perch has been his domain, but soon Crowe will plant both feet on terra firma once more, as the fire danger season is just about over.
Lonely? Not Crowe. For he's too engaged peering over the vast, timbered domain--a domain bigger than the state of Rhode Island.
"Of course, I get my mail and newspapers only once a week, but I have plenty to do to keep busy," he said. "Then, too, the solitude grows on you. You get so you like it, then love it."
Like an artillery gunner, Crowe "spots" fires.
His "weapons" are a map, an alidade, a protractor and a telephone. When he sees smoke, he puts the alidade into action. It resembles a sight on a gun. When accurately aimed at a faraway fire, the instrument, with the aid of a protractor, reveals the mathematical degree of the blaze.
Then observations are telephoned to headquarters in Sonora. As soon as two lookout stations report, results are combined, a triangular calculation is made, and the spot at which the fire is burning is determined. Then the "land forces," men and trucks, go into action." (Oakland Tribune)
1942: "As an outright gift to the United States government, Mrs. Iris S. McKewin of Modesto has donated five acres of her land on the highest point of Mt. Elizabeth within the Stanislaus National Forest, J.R. Hall, forest supervisor, announced.
'Mrs. McKewin's gift to the government has made it possible to move the fire lookout tower from government land to the most advantageous position on the peak and her donation is greatly appreciated by the U.S. Forest Service,' Supervisor Hall stated.
According to forest officers, a much better view is now provided for detection of forest fires. A wide scope of country is visible from the lookout tower and improved detection is now possible in the Twain Harte and Phoenix Lake areas.
The tower is a steel structure 50 feet high with a lookout house perched on top tp accommodate the lookout man during his long vigil in the fire season when the mountains are tinder dry.
The Stanislaus National Forest has 14 lookout stations in operation during the summer to serve as eyes of the Forest Rangers in detecting fires starting in the forest." '50 years ago' (The Union Democrat - 4/22/1992)
June 2010 - Ron Kemnow photo
October 7, 1921: "Stanislaus - Pilot Peak Lookout -- John Hastie -- reports that he had 63 visitors between June 6 to August 31, 1921. Pilot looks like a mighty popular summer resort, and we hope Hastie spread the fire gospel at every opportunity !" (California District News Letter)
1935 - Ola Zimmerman photo, Stanislaus National Forest Collection
April 15, 1931: "A fire lookout tower, giving protection to Stanislaus and Tuolumne Counties is assured by an appropriation of $600 by the county board of supervisors on Tuesday.
A similar amount was donated by the Tuolumne board, and construction of the thirty-foot tower on Rushing Mountain, near Oakdale will start at once, according to Earl T. Barron, state fire warden.
It will be completed by May 1, and throughout the entire dry season a man will be on duty continuously, Barron said. He will have telephone connections with rural fire departments, and upon "spotting" smoke or flames will order apparatus and men to the scene.
The lookout will have a sweeping view of most of Stanislaus and a great part of Tuolumne County. His telephone will keep him in touch at all times with both rural and city fire departments.
The state will maintain the lookout, Barron said, after the tower is constructed by the counties. (Modesto News-Herald)
June 26, 1931: "A twenty acre grass fire was reported Thursday morning on the Warner Beale ranch, now leased by Veranus Ellinwood of Sonora, located in the Don Pedro country. The fire was reported by Edward H. Tinnen, lookout at the newly constructed fire tower on Rushing Hill, who spotted the smoke before other lookouts were able to see it." (Modesto News-Hearld)
October 20, 1931: "The value of the lookout station at Rushing Hill and the quick results obtained in cases of fire were demonstrated yesterday when an alarm was phoned in about a fire near Knights Ferry.
A farmer in that vicinity had been given a fire permit to burn grass. No sooner had the blaze started than Ed Tinney at the lookout station discovered it and sent in the alarm. Clay Dorrah, rural fire chief, knew of the permit and did not take out the truck." (Modesto News-Herald)
July 8, 1936: "Frank Tinney, lookout at Rushing Mountain, was forced to leave his post because lightning threatened the station, according to an Associated Press dispatch from Sonora." (Oakland Tribune)
August 31, 1987: The lookout was destroyed when the Hamm Fire portion of the Stanislaus Complex of fire burned over the peak.
October 5, 1988: "Patsy Hamm will always remember the day the Smith Peak Forest Lookout burned to the ground.
The lookout burned Aug. 31, 1987, in the Stanislaus Complex Fires that destroyed 147,095 acres in Tuolumne and Mariposa counties. A wood frame building atop a metal two-story tower, the lookout burned within a couple hours of when Hamm abandoned it about 1 p.m.
Now, rising like a Phoenix out of the ashes, the lookout has been rebuilt and is nearly ready for use again in the Groveland Ranger District of the Stanislaus National Forest." (Merced Sun-Star)
August 18, 1939: "At 1:01 p.m. on August 8, Lookout-Fireman Carpenter on Thompson Peak Lookout in the Stanislaus National Forest, was attracted by the reflection of a shining object close to the right of way of a logging railroad one-half mile away from the tower. Curious as to the reflection but not able to determine what it was, he looked closely with the aid of field glasses. A few minutes later he thought he saw a tiny wisp of smoke rising from the reflection. He immediately reported to Fire Dispatcher Zimmerman at Sonora who sent Carpenter to investigate.
Upon arrival at 1:16 p.m. Carpenter found a small blaze two feet in diameter in grass and bear clover. In the center of the blaze was a broken piece of window glass about 6x10 inches, suspended about 3 inches above the grass by bear clover surrounding it. The fire had unquestionably started from the focusing of the sun's rays through the glass, creating enough heat to ignite the grass.
The occurrence of the fire establishes proof to the theory that ordinary glass can start a fire where location, weather, and fuel conditions are favorable. However, this is the first fire in the Stanislaus National Forest definitely known to have been started this way. -Stanislaus-"