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Spotting forest fires

Shortly after forest preserves were established throughout Wyoming in the early 1900s, rangers began to worry about spotting and controlling forest fires.

In a 1912 report written by Medicine Bow National Forest Supervisor C. M. Granger, it was noted that, “For the detection of fire on the Medicine Bow, there has been built up a system of what are known as primary, secondary and tertiary lookouts.

“Primary lookouts are points from which unusually large areas are readily visible on which a man is stationed throughout the season of fire danger and which are connected directly by telephone with the supervisor’s office and the range headquarters.

“Secondary lookouts are somewhat less prominent points on which lookout towers are built, which are visited each day by the ranger or his assistant during the fire season and which have telephone connection with the local and nearby ranger headquarters and the Supervisor’s office.

“Tertiary lookouts are high points having no tower or telephone lines, which are visited by the ranger or patrolman in dangerous periods.

“On the Medicine Bow, there is one primary lookout, four secondary ones and a large number of tertiary’s. These lookouts collectively cover almost every nook and corner on the forest, and it is only the very deep canyons or narrow gulches which do not expose themselves to view from one of these points.

“The primary lookout point is on top of the Snowy Range. This range is about seven miles long ,and by visiting three peaks within a mile of each other at the highest part of the range, the look man can look down on 80 percent of the forest area.

“The lookout man lives at the foot of the range in a little cabin on the shore of Lookout Lake. Each morning about seven o’clock, unless it is raining or so foggy as to obstruct the view, he climbs from his cabin to the top of Medicine Bow Peak, the highest point on the range – 12,005 feet.”

From this lofty point he scans the forest for smoke or flames, but then that’s fuel for another “Postcard from the Past.”