The Adirondack Park was created, in large part, to protect the timber of the area from the rapacious logging practices of the 19th century. But forest fires continued to take a toll on the area's forests, especially when the railroads were extended into the park; sparks from the engines caused numerous fires. Huge fires in 1903 and 1908 consumed nearly a million acres.
The first fire observation tower, made of wood and staffed by Fire Observers, was built on Mount Morris in Tupper Lake in 1909; fifty-six more towers were built in the park in succeeding years. Starting in 1916, steel towers began to replace the original wooden towers.
Eventually, it became more efficient to spot forest fires from airplanes, and the Fire Observers were phased out. Thirty-four towers remain standing. While some have been restored, those located within wilderness areas are in danger of being removed by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
Lake Placid News, April 28, 1916
FIRE FIGHTERS DISTRIBUTED
Rangers, Wardens, Mountain Observers, Plantation Watchers, Railroad Patrols
District Ranger, A. I. Vosburg of Lake Clear Junction, has placed his whole force of fire fighters in operation. The district takes in the Northern Adirondacks and includes the counties of Franklin, Clinton and the northern half of Essex. The force consists of about 150 men and are divided into the following classes: forest rangers, fire wardens, mountain observers, plantation watchers, and railroad patrolmen. The latter of course are maintained by the railroad companies.
The following is a list of the forest rangers, mountain observers, plantation and railroad patrolmen:
M. L. Corey, Saranac Lake; James Ahern, Lake Placid; Albert Tebeau, Owls Head; A. G. Winslew, Keeseville: Frank A. Smith, St. Regis Falls; John Dupraw, Clayburg; Frank Woodward, Lyon Mountain; A. H. Decora, Altona; Wesley C. Fadden, Onchiota; Earl W. Owen, Tupper Lake; George B. Tyler, Vermontville; Henry Cullen, Elizabethtown; James Hopkins, Ausable Forks.
Mountain Observers—W. C. Rice, Ampersand Mt.; Newell Brooks, Lyon Mt.; Archie Hayes, Hurricane Mt.: Harvey P. Mussen, Poka-Moon-Shine Mt.: Samuel Cheetum. Whiteface Mt.; Fred R. Smith, Azure Mt.; Millard F. Hayes, DeBar Mt.; John J. Ryan, Loon Lake Mt.; Louis Yell, Mount Morris; Henry B. Thompson, St. Regis Mt.
Plantation Watchmen — C. O. Dwight, Cross Clearing; Frank Hughes, Chubb Hill; Sylvester Newell, Mountain Pond.
New York & Ottawa R. R.. Tupper Lake to St. Regis Falls—Railroad Patrolmen—Dan Perry, Peter Susie, A. Petrack, Fred Rodes, G. Rock, D. Donovan, Jr.
New York Central R. R., Underwood to Malone Jct.—A. Cassagrain, H. Burke, P. Minnie, P. Leclair.
No. 2 Fire Force, N. Y. C. R. R.— T. Peets, L. Ledair, H. Strack, P. Gonyea. A. Ward, E. Rule, J. Barry. E. LaLonde, W. Campbell, E. Hooper, R. Thibault, F. Besnette.
Saranac Lake Branch—P. Finachiaro, Wm. Huff.
Delaware & Hudson R. R.—Robert Halen. Wm. Murphy, Pat Ryan, Frank Poland, Wm. Harrington, Ed. Poland, Chas. Benson, Ed. Bullis, James Owen, John Boyle.
The railroad patrolmen will be on duty all of the twenty-four hours until the oil-burning locomotives are placed in commission, which will be as soon as the conditions warrant.
Chateaugay Record, Friday, May 19, 1916
List of Officers on Duty May 1st in Clinton and Franklin Counties.
A roster of the forest fire protective force has been issued by the Conservation Commission which gives these officials tor Clinton and Franklin counties as follows:
Forest Rangers—Altona. H. A. Decora; Clayburg, John H. Dupraw; Lyon Mountain, Frank L. Woodward.
Observers—Lyon Mountain, Newell Brooks.
Fire Wardens—Alder Bend, William A. Wray; Altona, Charles Connors ; Ausable Forks, T. B. Bombard; Black Brook, J. W. Douglass; Chazy Lake, George Badger; Ellenburgh, Richard Gilmore; Ellenburgh Depot, John Baxter; Harkness, James Ross; Harkness, Charles M. Harkness; Plattsburgh, Charles Goodwin.
Watchmen—Cornell Tract, Charles O. Dwight; Mountain Pond, Sylvester A. Newell.
Fire Wardens—Axton, Frank Vosburg; Bartlett Carry, George Coulon; Bay Pond, John Redwood; Bloomingdale, Francis Skiff; Duane, Floyd R. Selkirk; Faust, Thomas Murray; Everton, John Flynn; Forest Home Road, W. J. McMaster; Franklin Falls, Moses Lahart; Gabriels, Chas. J. Reilly; Gile, Earl F. Day, A. A. Giffin; Harrietstown, A. S. Whitman ; Keese's Mills, H. A. Muncil; Lake Kiwassa, William Betters; Lake Kushaqua, H. H. Jefferson, A. E. Paye, Patrick Coffee; Loon Lake, Henry Abbott; Lower Saranac Lake, John Marquay; Madawaska, James Eccles; McColloms, Robert H. Stevens; Meacham Lake, George W. Cushman; Miller Pond, Milo Moody; Moody, W. J. Slater; Onchiota, Clarence Skiff; Owls Head, H. R. Glazier; Paul Smiths, Phelps Smith; Rainbow Lake, Dr. J. S. Emans; St. Regis Falls, O. L. Wilson, J. A. Fraser; Santa Clara, F. D. Smith; Santa Clara Lumber Co., Camp 4, F. W. Eldred ; Saranac Lake, Ambrose McKillip; Saranac Inn, Wlllard Boyce; Saranac Lake, Frank Sheldon; Wawbeek Road, Harvy Wolf Pond, Paul Gonyea.
Potsdam Courier-Freeman, April 9, 1930
FOREST RANGERS HOLD SESSION
ANNUAL GATHERING AT SARANAC LAKE LAST WEEK
District Forest Ranger James H. Hopkins of Saranac Lake presided at a meeting held there Tuesday, April 1, at which the district, forest rangers and fire observers from district one, three and five were present for their annual meeting preliminary to their summer activities.
In addition to the three [illegible] and officials of the forest service from the Adirondacks in attendance was William G. Howard, state superintendent of forests, and Kinnie F. Williams, superintendent of forest fire control from the Conservation department in Albany.
At the meetings forest fire fighting and other duties and problems of the forest service were fully discussed. There were also talks by Mr. Howard, Mr. Kinnie and the three district rangers. The meeting is an annual affair, called to give instruction to the men of the forest service just before beginning of the most dangerous period of all the year. There is also a general discussion by the rangers and observers of the various problems the men of the forest service are constantly coping with.
District Ranger Hopkins of Saranac Lake, District Ranger M. H. La Fountain of Cranberry Lake and District Ranger Ernest W. Blue of Poland were among the speakers.
The rangers and observers present were:
District No. 1: District Ranger Hopkins, Saranac Lake. Rangers: G. G. Whitman, Saranac Lake; A. Tebeau, Owls Head; Frank Hughes, Newman; F. E Derby, Bloomingdale; Bert Camp, St. Regis Falls; Delbert McNeil, Faust; A. G. Winslow, Keeseville; John E. Longware, Elizabethtown; H. D. Torrance, Keene Valley; G. H. Bull, Saranac; M. J. Leary, Ausable Forks; Lewis Carter, Chazy Lake; L. D. Hanley, Altona; Abe Fuller, Lake Placid. Observers: William Everleth, Lyon Mountain; Charles William, Loon Lake Mountain; Andrew Jebo, Mount Morris; Edward Rork, St. Regis Mountain, Frank Haskins, De Bar mountain: W. H. Finney, Pok-O-Moonshine mountain; Carl Lawrence, Whiteface mountain.
District No. 3: District Ranger Blue, Poland. Rangers and observers: Clarence Rennie, Beaver River; Peter Walters, Thendara; Alfred DeLong, Greig; M. J. Oley, Woodgate; Ned Felt, Old Forge; Daniel Lynn, Racket Lake; Merwin Austin, Glenfield; David Conkey, Beaver River.
District No. 5: District Ranger LaFountain, Cranberry Lake. Rangers and observers: Fred Brundage, Cranberry Lake; Henry Carbary, Piercefield; Charles Ferris, Oswegatchie.
Malone Farmer, April 6, 1933
FOREST FIRE OBSERVERS TO GO ON DUTY
Appointment of ten forest fire observers has been announced for the summer season of this year by District Forest Ranger James H. Hopkins, of the Saranac Lake conservation department office.
The list of appointments, as made by the conservation department's Albany office, is the same as last year, with but one exception. Although these appointments are made every year, changes in the personnel are infrequent. Recommendations for the posts are made by each district ranger for his territory, to be approved by the department.
The forest fire observers have been notified to report for duty to this district whenever Mr. Hopkins believes it necessary to have them at their posts for the first fires of the Spring season. The time varies each year, according to the weather. With the present weather of rain and snow it will probably be several weeks before the observers will be notified to report.
All of the ten men are expert woodsmen and well acquainted with their duties. They will continue until about November 1, when they will be given a leave of absence by the department for the winter.
These men must constantly be on duty during the forest fire season, and are in communication with forest rangers in whose territory they are located. In the event of fire they are speedily connected with the forest ranger, whose duty it is to gather men to handle shovels, picks, axes, rakes and other fire fighting tools at the scene of the conflagration. These ten observers are spread throughout the territory of District No. 7, which comprises all of Franklin and Clinton counties and the northern half of Essex county. There are 13 forest rangers in the same territory.
The following appointments have been made: Charles Williams, Inman, Blue Lake mountain station; Carl Lawrence, Wilmington, Palmer Hill and Whiteface Mountain stations; W. H. Finney, Keeseville, Pok-o-Moonshine mountain station; Harry Denton, New Russia, Hurricane Mountain station; Roy Whitcomb, St Regis Falls, Azure Mountain station; William Everleth, Saranac, Lyon Mountain station; Andrew Jebo, Tupper Lake, Mt. Morris station; Harry Cook, Owls Head, DeBar Mountain station; William Buckley, Saranac Lake, Ampersand Mountain station, and Fred Lyon, Paul Smiths, St. Regis mountain station.
Lake Placid News, July 10, 1931
PATROL AD'KS TO SPOT FOREST FIRES
To Supplement Service of Fire Rangers on Mountain Summit
An airplane patrol for detection of forest fires has been announced by Conservation Commissioner Henry Morgenthau, Jr.
The plane will cruise over the Adirondack and Catskill mountain regions during the summer spotting incipient fires that ordinarily might attain considerable headway before being discovered.
The airplane will have a cruising-range of 375 miles, a speed of ninety miles an hour in the air, and a landing speed of 46 miles an hour. It is similar to the plane recently purchased by the state police.
The Albany airport will be the home station for the air patrol.
The state already maintains an elaborate system of fire observation stations on mountains thruout the Adirondacks. Observers at these posts have done most effective work in prompt locating of fires and obtaining quick action to prevent their spread.