Forest Fire Lookout Association History The history of the Forest Fire Lookout Association has been chronicled over the years by it's historian Bob Spear. Many of activities and events of the past can be found in the archive sections in other sections of this website.
District 17 Garage.
Late in 1989, I was engaged in doing cold weather "Trail work assignments" out of the Franklin Forest Fire Office. This kept me in tune with happenings and nearly constantly engaged in forest fire work through one form or another. I was still running my own Contracting business so it was a busy existence then, always on the "go". I still lived in Bergen County, it was a long haul to Sussex County to do this work but it was extremely satisfying to be most of the time working in the woods, operating equipment, and engaged in fighting brushfires over four or five counties. Our Section firewarden had retired a few years earlier, our District wardens then took up the responsibilities of operating our Section's resources and responses until a full time Warden was finally appointed to take over.
My good friend Bob Wolff and I had worked on Catfish tower's roof, removing the old one and making way for a new one. From Catfish's open top, Bob spotted a forest fire across the Delaware River in the Pocono's and called it in. It was the first smoke turned in from Catfish in seven years of inactivity. In 1993, Catfish was rebuilt and re dedicated and continues to be an active fire tower today.
John Marston, one day at the Franklin Office received a notice sent from a Henry Isenberg from Massachusetts, Seems as though there was going to be a meeting of some sort of interested people to "discuss fire towers". It was to be held in the French Creek State Park in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in January and would anyone from New Jersey be interested in coming?..
Bob could not leave his farm unattended, and John couldn't go would I be interested in looking into this? It being cold January, there was little trail work to be done with snow on the ground and cold temperatures...sure..why not, something to do and a chance to see some new country I hadn't been to before. I engaged my friends John and Cindy Livesey and Joe Higgins to come along. Joe agreed to drive and we set out the day, headed southwest through New Jersey and across Dutch country of Pennsylvania.
We arrived at French Creek State Park, spotting the Hopewell fire tower high up on a rolling hill overlooking scattered woods and open field country. We made our way to the small maintenance building near the base of the tower, and were greeted by an engaging gentleman who introduced himself as Steve Cummings. Inside was John Slip, a forestry patrolman busy trying to get the old coal stove lit off to provide some much needed warmth on the concrete floor. There were others present also, Henry and Ellen Isenberg from Massachusetts, Chris Harrtz from way up in New Hampshire's Granite Kingdom, a large good natured fellow from Vermont by the name of Mark Haughwout, Joined Steve and the three of us from New Jersey, Chuck Helms, a tower operator in Pennsylvania and Scott Ritter also from Pennsylvania, at Williamsport. Late in the afternoon, almost when we were breaking up to leave for home, Bob and Sandy Wolff arrived. They had taken care of their farm chores and driven all the way out here to meet everyone.
At this very first meeting we began to outline what exactly our purpose was to be, how to structure it, future gatherings, organizing bylaws and a Constitution. We agreed the purpose would be “historical preservation” and to not be involved with any sort of lobbying for job retentions or active sort of legislative campaigning that may hurt the very reason we came together. The question of fund raising and other means of securing money for these purposes was brought up, however this subject was tabled for future meetings and decided that these were better topics to work on, after a set of bylaws were adopted. This first meeting was harmonious and pleasurable that representatives from different States could get together and discuss the subject of Lookouts. It was soon learned that a common thread of interest was discovered here and we all looked forward to our next meeting we agreed toward the end of our visit, would take place in Saddle River, New Jersey, hosted by our New Jersey representatives.
The day was concluded with a tour of the Hopewell Fire Tower and Ground Cabin.
The rest is...as they say, History. From that small meeting, gathered around on old chairs and crates in the maintenance garage at Hopewell tower, what eventually became the Forest Fire Lookout Association began to take shape.