August 20, 1917: "Steel forest towers for observation of fire will be erected in forests in the Hazelton district, where extensive reforestation has been under way for some time. The work will be done by the Antracite Protective Association and the state working together." (Harrisburg Telegraph)
August 30, 1917: "The Anthracite Forestry Protective Association, composed of the coal, timber, water and land companies of Northeastern Pennsylvania, will build three fire towers in the Hazelton district at once between Hazelton and Pottsville, Hudsondale and Nesquehoning and on the mountain lying between Wilkes-Barre and Hazelton." (The Fulton County News)
September 6, 1919: "An appropriation of $7,200 has been made by the State Forest Commission for the erection of six steel fire towers to be used for observation purposes in central Pennsylvania State forest. These towers are to be built at once and will be modelled after some of those which have been successfully used in eastern Pennsylvania forest tracts which are privately owned. It is the beginning of development of a forest fire fighting system of the State government which now has over a million acres of woodland, some of which is just commencing to pay a handsome return." (Harrisburg Telegraph)
September 26, 1919: "The first of the steel observation towers authorized by the State Forestry Association as a part of the forest fire protection service in Pennsylvania will be erected within the next six or eight weeks and be put into immediate service. Some of the material has arrived and it is hoped to push the work so that the towers may be ready in the fall when destructive fires have occurred in State forests because of lack of observation and report facilities. The first towers will be erected in the following locations: Near Coudersport in Hebron township, Potter county; near Galeton in Pike township, Potter county; west of Austin in Portage township, Potter county; near Ansonia in Shippen township, Tioga county; near Tamarack, Leidy township, Clinton county; near pump house in Brown township, Lycoming county, and on Big Poe Mountain, Coburn township, Centre county. These towers will be 60 feet high and located on high ground covering districts for miles around. They will have enclosed cabins. State Forestry officials will endeaver to increase the number of such observation towers as rapidly as possible. It is figured out that there should be a dozen more provided if funds are available. There are several fire observation towers operated in conjunction with the Anthracite Protective Association, composed of coal companies owning large tracts of timberland in Schuylkill and Luzerne counties." (Harrisburg Telegraph)
September 1925: "It appears that although Maine was the first State to make an effort along this line, private observation towers were constructed as far back as the eighties. A memorandum from Mr. George Wirt, Chief Forest Fire Warden of Pennsylvania, is interesting in this respect: 'Back in the 1880's while Albert Lewis was conducting his lumbering operations in the neighborhood of Bear Creek, Luzerne County, he established a lookout station on one of the highest houses near his lumber town of Bear Creek. During the fire season one of his men was stationed on the top of this house with a horn or megaphone and whenever he observed smoke anywhere in the neighborhood of the operations he notified the people of the village and they in turn the lumber crews and a prompt attack was made upon the fire.' " (The Forest Worker)
October 1925: "Pennsylvania's primary forest fire tower system now includes 114 lookout points, of which 110 are steel towers. The State owns all but four of these. One belongs to the U.S. Forest Service, one to a railroad, ans one to a coal company." (The Forest Worker)
The following is from the Foresters' Conference of February 5 and 6, 1929, held in the Senate Caucus Room, Harrisburg, Pa.
Pennsylvania's Forest Observation Tower System, Presented by H.E. Clepper:
"What were probably the first observation stations in Pennsylvania for the protection of State forest land were constructed on the South Mountains in Franklin county in 1903. Tall trees on the higher points of ridges were selected, pieces of wood were nailed on them to form ladders, the tops were cut out, and in some cases temporary platforms were built in the tree tops.
In 1905 a forty-foot wooden tower with an open platform was erected on a mountain near Mont Alto. During the following nine years a few more temporary wooden structures were erected in various parts of the states, but for the most part the early foresters took advantage of whatever they found available that could be used for observation stations, and the tree top look-outs continued to be their principle reliance for forest fire detection
In 1914 this Department erected its first steel towers. These were fifty feet high, with open platforms on top, but only four were erected. Three years later the State built two steel towers equipped with enclosed tops and ladders. These and all subsequent towers were equipped with telephone instruments connected with the forester's office and some forest fire wardens. The open top tower was not satisfactory, in that the observer was exposed to high winds and cold and could not possibly stay on the platform for very long periods. It became necessary to adopt some type of tower with an enclosed top, which would provide greater comfort for the observer.
The passage of a State compensation law led to a consideration of the possibility of State employees falling from the ladders of these towers, and the fact that the public began to use these towers suggested a change in the type of construction to insure greater safety. Instead of using a ladder to mount the tower, it was found desirable to erect only towers equipped with stairs and guard rails. Towers purchased in 1919 and 1921 were of this type; many of these towers were sixty feet in height, of galvanized steel with enclosed cabins on top. Incidentally, by experience, it was found that to build wooden towers of the same height was fully as expensive, and the wooden ones had the added drawback of needing paint more often.
Each top tower cabin is furnished with a telephone, permitting communication with the forester, forest rangers, or forest fire wardens. Most of the towers now have installed in the top cabin an iron table with movable top, upon which is mounted a circular map showing the territory under observation by the towerman. This map is covered with plate glass, and centered in the map is a movable instrument called an alidade, which indicates on a circular scale on the map the azimuth bearing of the observed fire.
Each towerman is supplied with a pair of field glasses and various blank forms upon which he keeps a complete record of reported forest fires, and such other records as humidity and temperature.
Near the foot of the towers are small cabins, in which the towermen stay when not on observation duty. These cabins are usually equipped with stoves, cots, mattresses, tables, chairs, cooking utensils and dishes. Fire tools are stored therein. In the cabins on the ground there are no telephones, but instead a call bell is installed, If the telephone in the top tower cabin rings when he is on the ground, he will hear the call but will have to mount the tower in order to answer the telephone. This arrangement acts as a precaution against the possibility of the towerman failing to be on the top of the tower when he should be there, and guards against his making reports from the ground instead of from the point where fires should be observed.
The average cost of Pennsylvania's forest tower observation stations, fully equipped, is approximately $1,500 each. The State's total investment in tower stations is approximately $141,000. Approximately 1,000 miles of telephone line connect the towers with commercial telephone companies, of which the Department of Forests and Waters maintains approximately 800 miles.
During the early growth of Pennsylvania's observation tower system it was believed that towers fifty feet in height were satisfactory, if placed upon a high knob. Later it was found that a tower sixty feet in height permitted more satisfactory observation, and accordingly the majority of the towers constructed in recent years are of the sixty foot type. Experiments conducted by agencies in other states and within our own state show that sixty foot towers have advantages over fifty towers, and that eighty foot towers are greatly superior to the sixty foot type. Accordingly, several eighty foot structures were erected during the past two years, and these almost immediately proved their worth over the lower types. Reports show that the efficiency of eleven towers could be greatly increased if they were increased in height to eighty feet." (Foresters. Conference, February 5 and 6, 1929) Bulletin 39, Department of Forests and Waters
March 1929: "Seven 80-foot steel lookout towers were erected in 1928 by the Pennsylvania Department of Forests and Waters." (The Forest Worker)