Towers might be burned by budget

archive_import /

By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER and The Associated Press

The last 22 wildfire watchtowers maintained by the state of California will fall victim this year to the state's record budget shortfall and to modern technology.

The Department of Forestry and Fire Protection won't staff the lookouts this summer, in order to save $700,000, nearly half the $1.7 million it must trim from its $500 million budget.

CDF's Tuolumne-Calaveras Ranger District has no affected towers. The Stanislaus National Forest's four towers will be staffed during fire season.

The state towers could be staffed temporarily during lightning storms or during periods of high wind and low humidity that produce extraordinarily high fire danger, said CDF spokeswoman Karen Terrill.

The department hopes to reopen at least some of the lookouts if money again becomes available, as was the case after the towers were shuttered for the 1992 and 1993 fire seasons during the state's last big budget crisis.

Residents and officials near the lookouts are lobbying lawmakers to keep them open. Last year Gov. Gray Davis found emergency money to open 10 additional towers temporarily during what was projected to be an extreme fire season.

But the decades-old towers have become increasingly redundant.

Most fires now are spotted from airplanes, by residents in what once were isolated wildland areas, or are called in by passers-by on their cell phones. Just 7 percent of fires were first spotted from the state's towers in 2001, the last figures available but that's still 415 fires, compared to the 5,808 fires first spotted by others.

The one CDF Tuolumne-Calaveras unit tower that serves both counties, located on Blue Mountain between West Point and Arnold, is not staffed full-time but only on high risk days, said Fred McVay, Tuolumne County fire warden and chief of CDF's Tuolumne-Calaveras unit.

McVay said the closed towers will probably begin operating the same way.

11500465
The Union Democrat
This image is copyrighted.

Reach all of Sonora, Calaveras County, Tuolumne, Angels Camp, Twain Harte, & Jamestown with your items to sell.

Ads appear Online and in Print

View Classifieds Place an Ad

Connect with The Union Democrat

Union Democrat Newsstand

Sunday May 29, 2016

Read digital interactive editions of our publications

Read Today's Edition Take A Tour

More Publications by The Union Democrat

View All Publications
Sheriff’s deputies respond to alarm at Sonora KFC

05/26/2016

Tuolumne County sheriff’s deputies responded with guns drawn to a holdup alarm ... more

Avalon Care Center fined for patient death

05/24/2016

Avalon Care Center in Sonora has been fined $80,000 by the California ... more

UPDATE: Probe begins in Don Pedro fire

05/25/2016

Investigators began sifting through the rubble of the Don Pedro Recreation Agency ... more

Homelessness, high school and the Butte Fire

05/20/2016

Cole Baisch arrived at Calaveras High School around lunchtime as the sky ... more

Deputies visit schools, build community ties

05/24/2016

You would think Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Deputy Nate Yorston was Santa Claus ... more