This geocache is hidden at the top of Fly Creek Point. The elevation is listed as 8,984 ft. Bordering the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, this L-4 cab, built in 1935, was used for emergencies in the 1960's. It was burned by a vandal during the winter of 1993.
The history of fire lookout towers predates the United States Forest Service, founded in 1905. Many townships, private lumber companies, and State Forestry organizations operated fire lookout towers on their own accord.
The Great Fire of 1910, also known as the Big Blowup, burned 3,000,000 acres through the states of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. It is still arguably the largest forest fire ever in recorded history. The smoke from this fire drifted across the entire country to Washington D.C. — both physically and politically — and it challenged the five-year-old Forest Service to address new policies regarding fire suppression, and the fire did much to create the fire rules, organizations, and policies that we have today. One of the rules as a result of the 1910 fire stated "all fires must be extinguished by 10 a.m. the following morning".
To prevent and suppress fires, the U.S. Forest Service made another rule that townships, corporations and States would bear the cost of contracting fire suppression services, because at the time there was not the large Forest Service Fire Department that exists today.
As a result of the above rules, early fire detection and suppression became a priority. Towers began to be built across the country. While earlier lookouts used tall trees and high peaks with tents for shelters, by 1911 permanent cabins and cupolas were being constructed on mountaintops.
Beginning in 1910, the New Hampshire Timberland's Owners Association, a fire protection group, was formed and soon after, similar organizations were set up in Maine and Vermont. A leader of these efforts, W.R. Brown, an officer of the Brown Company which owned over 400,000 acres of timberland, set up a series of effective forest-fire lookout towers, possibly the first in the nation, and by 1917 helped establish a forest-fire insurance company.
In 1933, during the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt formed the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), consisting of young men and veterans of World War I. It was during this time that the CCC set about building fire lookout towers, and access roads to those towers. The U.S. Forest Service took great advantage of the CCC workforce and initiated a massive program of construction projects, including fire lookout towers. In California alone, some 250 lookout towers and cabs were built by CCC workers between 1933 and 1942.
The heyday of fire lookout towers was from 1930 through 1950. During World War II, the Aircraft Warning Service was established, operating from mid-1941 to mid-1944. Fire lookouts were assigned additional duty as Enemy Aircraft Spotters, especially on the West Coast of the United States.
From the 1960's through the 1990's the towers took a back seat to new technology, aircraft, and improvements in radios. The promise of space satellite fire detection and modern cell phones tried to compete with the remaining fire lookout towers, but in several environments, the technology failed.
Fires detected from space are already too large to make accurate assessments for control. Cell phones in wilderness areas still suffer from lack of signal. Today, some fire lookout towers remain in service, because having human eyes being able to detect smoke and call in the fire report allows fire management officials to decide early how the fire is to be managed. The more modern policy is to "manage fire", not simply to suppress it. Fire lookout towers provide a reduction in time of fire detection to time of fire management assessment.
Idaho had the most known lookout sites (966); 196 of them still exist, with roughly 60 staffed each summer. Kansas is the only U.S. state that has never had a lookout.