The following is from the State Forester's Conference held December 8 and 9, 1922 in the Senate Chamber, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania:
Mr. M.C. Hutchins, Massachusetts: "I have been asked to give an outline of our state-wide forest fire protection system in Massachusetts. I have listened with great deal ofd interest to the remarks just made by State Forester Gaskill of New Jersey, and if I were to touch on the fire menace or fire conditions in Massachusetts, I would simple need to repeat what Mr. Gaskill has told us, as conditions in Massachusetts and New Jersey are somewhat similar.
The present system was started in the fall of 1911, legislation being enacted that year calling for state-wide fire protection. In fact nine years ago at this time we were constructing our first observation station at the summit of Grace Mountain in the town of Warwick, and within five miles of New Hampshire line. The state was divided into five districts, each comprising around seventy towns, each district under the supervision of a district forest warden, who was provided with an automobile and necessary equipment for handling a small fire. It is their duty here, that in selection of our district forest wardens, we have not adhered to fires, and to urge upon them the necessity of providing themselves with necessary forest fire fighting equipment.
We have thirty-seven observation stations, thirty-two of which are steel towers from thirty-eight to eighty-three feet high, according to the location, and topography of the country. Twenty-six of these towers are equipped with fire escape stairs, and six with ladders. The total cost, including erection, is $33,000, and the towns receiving the benefit from these towers have contributed $14,000 of this amount. All stations are equipped with field glasses, sliding map tables, and topographical maps, which give the location and telephone call of over eighteen hundred forest wardens and deputies throughout the state. The construction work of towers has been done entirely by our district men and observers. I might say right here, that in selection of our district forest wardens, we have not adhered to the policy adopted by many states in selecting foresters for this position, and the reason for this is that the fire menace in our state is so serious that it needs a man specially trained in the handling of fires to make a success of it. We therefore selected some of the best fire department chiefs, together with experienced telephone and map-making men for the positions. This gives us a type of man that with very little training could go ahead, with our entire construction problem, so that for the past eight years it has not been necessary to engage a single outside man for this work.
The matter of having a closed room at the top of the towers is very important, and I have found that if we are to expect results from our observers we must give them a protected room to work in. The equipping of our towers with stairs has made it possible for more than thirty thousand people to visit them annually, coming from every state in the Union and from many foreign countries. For instance, this year at Mount Everett Station, which is located in the most desolate part of the state, being in the southwest corner, we have had more than thirteen hundred visitors from twenty-two states and five foreign countries. All our towers have a complete set of bulletins published by the department, and anyone interested may procure similar copies by leaving their address with the observer. Most of our observers have been with us many years, and make it a point to give the visitors a good talk on fire protection. The matter of selecting observers is a very important one with us. We prefer a local, middle-aged man, who has either lived in the locality a number of years, or who has been a frequent hunter or trapper in that vicinity, so that the information he has gathered in this capacity, together with our triangulation system in the station, make it possible for him to locate fires very accurately and quickly. The matter of accuracy is very important, as we have three hundred and fifty-three towns and cities within so small an area, and an observer must be so familiar with town lines that he will know just what town the fire is in.
The cost of a fifty foot tower made of 4 x 4 angle iron, with stairs and an eight foot room at the top, all complete and ready for use is about $1,200, and a seventy-five foot tower with 5 x 5 angle iron all complete is about $1,600. This does not include the cost of erection, which, as I have said before, is done entirely by our salaried district men and observers. We have had considerable experience with the cheap windmill tower, but they have not proved satisfactory--in fact they are not heavy enough to carry stairs and the closed in room at the top. The expense of erecting is nearly as much as one of the heavier towers, so that practically all the extra expense is the initial cost in the purchasing of a better grade tower.
(Proceedings of State Foresters' Conference.) Bulletin No. 23, 1922 Pennsylvania Department of Forestry