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Environment

Signs of fire season winding down: weekend storms and closing of fire lookout

 

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Michigan is the current lookout for Buck Rock Fire Tower. She holds a photo of the first female lookout, Lea Dotters.

Nestled in the northeast part of Sequoia National Forest 8500 feet up, the Buck Rock Fire Tower sits atop a 250 foot rock face, jutting over an expansive view of the forest and the Sierra Nevada.

The tower is situated between Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, giving it a prime view of smoke columns. A woman who goes by the name Michigan staffs the lookout full-time.

 

“We are a first-line early fire detection resource,” Michigan says.

 

She says the lookout is an important tool during fire season.

 

“I can see it, I can tell if it's really a smoke. I can tell if it's a legitimate smoke.” she says.

From the tower, Michigan watched the KNP Complex grow, even as the fire got closer. 

“I could see flames on that ridge,” she says pointing to a ridge at eye level to the tower. “I had embers falling on the roof and on the stairs from a fire that was still four and a half miles away.”

Michigan had to flee the tower on October 4. Since then, the building had been wrapped with the same foil used to protect giant sequoias from the heat of the fire. Forest officials are still waiting to unwrap some of the iconic trees like the General Sherman.

Although forest officials took off the foil Thursday last week for the first time since the fire started, the tower is now closed for the winter.

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Going up the steps to the tower.

Fire Information Officer Kimberly Kaschalk watches for another change, a rain storm this weekend that they hope will help bring fire season to an end. 

“This weather will help us in bringing that fuel moisture up, it will help us in aiding to extinguish the fires that are presently burning and improving the fuel condition to prevent the start of future fires," she says.

 
The tower reopens again in June. If you’re not afraid of heights, a steep staircase leads up to the historic tower, built almost 100 years ago.  Officials say they can get as many as 7,000 visitors each season. 

 

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