Tag Archives: Fires

Adirondack Fire Tower Management Public Hearing Set


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Hurricane-mtn-Fire-Tower-Phil-Brown-PhotoThe Proposed Final Drafts of the Hurricane Mountain and St. Regis Mountain Fire Tower Historic Area Unit Management Plans (UMPs) were presented by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) staff to the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Board at their monthly meeting on February 14, 2014. Pursuant to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP) requirements for Historic Areas, the Agency will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 to solicit public comments related to the proposed UMPs’ conformity with the provisions of the SLMP.

The Hurricane Mountain Fire Tower Historic Area is located on the Summit of Hurricane Mountain in the Town of Keene, Essex County. The St. Regis Mountain Fire Tower Historic Area is located on the summit of St. Regis Mountain in the Town of Santa Clara, Franklin County. Continue reading

Comments Sought On Historic Adirondack Fire Towers


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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has released the draft unit management plans (UMPs) for the Hurricane Mountain Fire Tower Historic Area and the Saint Regis Mountain Fire Tower Historic Area. The UMPs contain management proposals for the fire observation towers located on the summit of Hurricane Mountain in the Town of Keene, Essex County, and the summit of Saint Regis Mountain in the Town of Santa Clara, Franklin County. Continue reading

Rehabilitated Mount Beacon Fire Tower Re-Opens


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Beacon Fire Tower Before RenovationWhat follows is a guest essay by William Keating about the opening of the rehabilitated Mount Beacon Fire Tower in June.

The colonials used the 1,400 foot north peak of Mount Beacon along the Hudson River during the Revolutionary War to set warning fires to alert General Washington at his headquarters on the western side of the river of any British presence in the valley below.  From this activity, the City of Beacon got its name.  Continue reading

Coney Island Souvenirs Throughout The Years


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Gambling wheel, 1900-1920. Wood, glass, metal. Purchase, 1995.2In May 1654, the early settlers of Gravesend, Brooklyn purchased what is now known as Coney Island from the local Native Americans. Back then it was just a beach, but by the 1840s it had morphed into how many of us know it now: a vacation getaway right in our own city.

Roads and steamships around that time made travel time from New York City around two hours, making Coney Island an accessible beach destination for anyone.  By the 1920s it was even more popular, after the subway made its debut. But visitors weren’t content with just beaches and hotels. There were games to be played, rides to be ridden, and souvenirs to take home! Here are a few from the New-York Historical Society‘s collection.
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Prescribed Fire Program at Saratoga National Historical Park


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With favorable weather conditions in place, certified wildland firefighters at Saratoga National Historical Park, will undertake prescribed burning of approximately 40 acres of park land during the last two weeks of August.

This “summer burn” will include the Chatfield Farm area of the Battlefield.  The burns may take up to three days to complete, and the park will remain open to visitors during this time.  The park has historically conducted prescribed burns in the Spring.

This shift from spring to summer burning is an experimental approach to see if the application of fire at a  different time will yield better results in the management of the types of plants found in the fields.  It is hoped the summer burn will result in  greater success in ridding the park of unwanted invasive and woody stemmed  plants.

For over twenty years, prescribed fires have been a valuable and safe tool in managing Saratoga Battlefield’s 3200 acres.  Planned burns allow the park to maintain its historic 1777 landscape, reduce the spread of exotic plant species, encourage regeneration of natural grasses and eliminate the
need for personnel to work on hazardous slopes with mechanical equipment.  Additionally, hazard fuel reduction around developed areas provides for firefighter safety and structure protection in the event of a natural wildfire.

Before such a prescribed fire can occur, an official Fire Management Plan  is required. Saratoga National Historical Park’s Fire Management Plan was approved by regional National Park Service Fire Management Officers. Neighboring fire departments are informed of daily plans and prior to
igniting a fire, and park staff runs down a go/no go checklist prior to any  firing.

If you have any questions about prescribed fires at Saratoga National Historical Park or park events, please contact the park’s visitor center at (518) 664-9821 ext. 1777.

New Exhibit on the Great Fire of Troy


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On May 10, 1862, as the nation was consumed by the ravages of the Civil War, Troy NY faced a devastating fire. As a train crossed the Hudson River on the Troy-Green Island Bridge, a spark from the engine ignited the wooden bridge. The fire spread rapidly, ultimately destroying over 600 buildings in the heart of the city in only six hours. Newspaper accounts, personal letters and even artist renderings depict a city in chaos as people struggled to save their homes and businesses. The Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) has opened a new exhibit commemorating the 150th anniversary of Troy’s Great Fire. The exhibit runs through August 18, 2012.



Stacy Pomeroy Draper, RCHS Curator, said, “The Great Fire is one of Troy’s most significant events as it dynamically altered the look of the city. As many local towns learned after the hurricane and tropical storms of last year, natural disaster can dramatically change a location in the blink of an eye. The story of Troy’s rise after the fire is one that can inspire us today to rebuild after a tragedy.”

Advances in fire fighting technology, such as the use of steam-powered fire engines were applauded for their role in saving the city, and citizens joined together to re-emerge from the catastrophe. Well known architects designed new buildings in the latest styles and new building codes were introduced mandating the use of fire resistant building materials.

The exhibit focuses on four main themes; Troy in the 1860s, Mid-19th Century fire fighting techniques, the event itself known as The Great Fire of May 10, 1862 and the aftermath, including personal impacts, changes to city code and fire safety. A number of early photographic images, several recently discovered, show the city just before the fire and document the devastation.

Artifacts on display include firefighting equipment such as fire buckets, a rare fireman’s jacket and helmets. Accounts of the event from local newspapers and eyewitness descriptions found in personal letters, several of which came to light as research was undertaken, tell the story firsthand. A number of fire related artifacts from public institutions and private lenders will also be on display for the first time, including a toy steam fire engine from the FASNY Museum of Firefighting in Hudson, New York.

Programming during the exhibit will include a trip to see the extensive fire collections at the FASNY Museum of Firefighting. RCHS will lead a walking tour of the district impacted by the fire on Saturday, May 12 at 10:30am. The tour departs from the Market Table at the Troy Waterfront Farmers’ Market. Tour is $5 per person, free for RCHS members.

Stacy Pomeroy Draper, RCHS curator, is available to give illustrated lectures about the fire.

The exhibit is sponsored in part by B-Lann Equipment Co., John G Waite Associates and the Troy Uniformed Firefighters Association.

Illustration: Grandma Moses, “The Burning of Troy in 1862″ (1943)


The Hulett Hotel Fire on Lake George


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The rise of local and specialist history publishers such as Arcadia and History Press has been a boon to local history and an opportunity part-time writers and historians to have their work published outside the vanity press. One of those part-timers is George Kapusinski, long time denizen of Huletts Landing on Lake George and publisher of The Huletts Current blog. His second effort for History Press (his previous work Huletts Landing on Lake George was published by Arcadia) has just been published, and it’s a fascinating and well-written account of the devastating fire at the Hulett Hotel 1915. Even more revealing is the well-researched tale of the trial held in the aftermath of the fire.

Broken into 12 chapters, which include short, readable and informative sub-chapters, The Hulett Hotel Fire on Lake George (History Press, 2012) features a set of unique photos of the events surrounding the fire and the fire’s aftermath, only recently discovered taped to the back of an Abe Lincoln lithograph. But this is more than the tale of the fire and the rebuilt hotel’s preeminence among early 20th century Lake George resorts. After the hotel was rebuilt, a mysterious figure claimed that the hotel’s owner, William H. Wyatt, had paid him to start the fire. Kapusinski investigates the resultant arson trial in detail, including the burning of Wyatt’s former Glenwood Hotel just three years earlier at Lake Bomoseen.

In a wide ranging narrative, Kapusinski takes us into the time period, explores the places (including Wyatt’s Trojan Hotel in Troy where he was arrested), and explores the motives and character of the those involved. A great read.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Prescribed Fire Program at Saratoga Battlefield


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With favorable weather conditions in place, certified wildland firefighters at Saratoga National Historical Park in Stillwater in conjunction with DEC Forest Rangers, will undertake prescribed burning of approximately 46 acres in the center of the park, near Stop 4 in late August and early September. The park will remain open to visitors during this time.



For over twenty years, prescribed fires have been a valuable and safe tool in managing Saratoga Battlefield’s 3200 acres. Planned burns allow the park to maintain its historic 1777 landscape, reduce the spread of exotic plant species, encourage regeneration of natural grasses and eliminate the need for personnel to work on hazardous slopes with mechanical equipment. Additionally, hazard fuel reduction around developed areas provides for fire fighter safety and structure protection in the event of a natural wildfire.

An official Fire Management Plan is required before such a prescribed fire can occur. Saratoga National Historical Park’s Fire Management Plan was approved by regional NPS Fire Management Officers. Neighboring fire departments are informed of daily plans and prior to igniting a fire, and park staff runs down a go/no go checklist prior to any firing.

If you have any questions about prescribed fires at Saratoga National Historical Park or park events, please contact the park’s visitor center at (518) 664.9821 ext. 224.

Adirondack Fire Tower Tour and Discussion


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The Adirondack History Center Museum / Essex County Historical Society will present an Adirondack fire tower tour and discussion with David Thomas-Train on Sunday, August 28th.

There had once been 57 fire towers in the Adirondacks (public and private). In the 1970s and 1980s the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) closed more than 40. In 1990, when the DEC closed the last of the Adirondack fire towers – Bald (Rondaxe), Blue, Hadley, and St. Regis mountains – just 26 remained standing. During the 1990s historic preservationists, local community boosters, and other began organizing to save their local fire towers. Although the Whiteface mountain tower was moved to the Adirondack Museum in 1974, the Blue Mountain tower was the first of the abandoned towers to be restored in 1994.



Participants can sign up for any portion of the day: the hike, the Museum fire tower climb, the lecture, or all activities.

9 am— 3 pm: Meet at the Museum on Sunday, August 28th at 9 am for an orientation prior to a climb up Poke-O-Moonshine to explore the fire tower with naturalist David Thomas-Train. Space is limited for the hike and reservations are required. Hikers need to be at least 15 years old and in shape for a sustained, steep hike.

3 pm: Climb the Museum’s fire tower

3:30 pm: An open discussion with naturalist David Thomas-Train about fire towers in the Adirondacks.

The cost is $15 for the entire day; and $5 just for the open discussion. To make your reservations, contact the museum by calling (518) 873-6466 or via email at: echs@adkhistorycenter.org.

Catalog Features Glens Falls Insurance Co. Sign


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The Glens Falls Insurance Company agent’s trade sign, which served as the model for the reproduction currently available from Pottery Barn, is now on display at the Chapman Historical Museum. Shaped in the form of a fireman’s helmet shield, the five foot tall sign, which dates from around 1877, proclaims the company’s solid assets under its logo, “Old and Tried.” The original sign, part of the museum’s Glens Falls Insurance Company Collection, has been reproduced through a licensing agreement between the museum and Williams Sonoma.

The Glens Falls Insurance Company was founded in 1849 by Russell M. Little, a former Methodist minister, to provide fire insurance for residents of his small upstate New York community. The company grew rapidly, and in a few years operated branch offices across the United States. “Old & Tried” became well known for sound business practices and the ability to pay claims after the disastrous fires that plagued American cities a century ago. The company’s motto proved well deserved. In response to the 1906 earthquake and fire that destroyed San Francisco, Glens Falls Insurance Company paid out $1.5 million from its surplus without suffering financial setback.

In spite of research, the exact identity of the agent, C.H. Barber, is not known. Leads from the public are welcome.

For more information call the Chapman Historical Museum at (518) 793-2826. The museum is located at 348 Glen Street, Glens Falls, NY. Public hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm, and Sunday, Noon to 4 pm.

1911 Capitol Fire Exhibit Extended


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The 1911 Capitol Fire exhibit in lobby of Cultural Education Center has been extended through October 22, 2011. In the early morning hours of March 29, 1911, a fire broke out in the
northwest corner of the New York State Capitol. Many Albany residents awoke in the early morning hours to see the entire western side of the presumed fireproof building was engulfed in flames shooting 200 feet high. The fast-moving flames destroyed much of the State Library, the fifth largest in the U.S., which was housed in the Capitol.

More than 8,000 Museum objects stored in the Capitol were also destroyed or lost. The fire caused the unprecedented destruction of the state’s intellectual, cultural and historic property and also claimed the life of the lone night watchman.

The exhibition commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Capitol Fire through dramatic photographs, eyewitness accounts, and artifacts that survived the blaze.

Photo: Amateur photographer Harry Roy Sweney captured the Capitol inferno at 3:30 a.m. on March 29, 1911. The New York American paid $25.00 for the first print of this dramatic photograph. Courtesy New York State Library, Manuscripts and Special Collections.

State Capitol Fire of 1911 Commemoration


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In the early morning hours of March 29, 1911, a fire broke out in the New York State Capitol at Albany. By sunset, the vast collection of the New York State Library, then housed in the Capitol, had been reduced to ashes.

To commemorate the centennial of the fire, coauthors Paul Mercer and Vicki Weiss, both of the New York State Library, have published The New York State Capitol and the Great Fire of 1911 (Arcadia Press, 2011) including rare images and documents from the special collections of the modern library, which arose from the ruins of the 1911 fire.

The public is invited join Executive Deputy Chief Warren Abriel of the Albany Fire Department to mark the 100th Anniversary of this historic event on Tuesday, March 29, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the University Club of Albany. The reception will feature light fare and cash bar, and authors Mercer and Weiss will discuss and sign the book. Royalties from book sales benefit the Friends of the New York State Library.

The event will also feature a preview of a documentary set to air on March 31 on WMHT, The New York Capitol Fire. Robert Altman, President and CEO of WMHT Educational Communications, will introduce a clip of the video, which draws on interviews, archival materials and reenactments. This WMHT documentary was created in collaboration with the New York State Museum, the New York State Archives, the Albany Institute, the New York State Library, the City of Albany and the Commission on the Restoration of the Capitol.

The cost for the reception, book signing and video preview is $20 per person. Reservations are required and may be made by calling the University Club at (518) 463-1151.

A portion of the proceeds from this event benefit the University Club Foundation, formed to recognize and maintain the unique historic and architectural significance of the University Club building and property, its historic neighborhood and the city of Albany, where it has been located since its inception in 1901.

Support for educational programming presented by the University Club of Albany Foundation, Inc. is provided by AT&T.

Photo: Fire-destroyed reading room in State Capitol, Albany, NY, 1911. Courtesy New York State Archives.

Labor Event: 1911 Triangle Factory Fire


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FIRE! PLEASE HELP US WE ARE TRAPPED! These were the words screamed on Saturday afternoon on March 25, 1911. It was the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York’s Greenwich Village that took the lives of 146 mostly young immigrant women and changed the course of history.

To mark the centennial anniversary and recognize the significance of the Triangle tragedy, members of the public are invited to a special free program, which will be presented at the New York State Museum Friday, March 25, at 4 p.m. to coincide with the date and time of the fire. Sponsored by the Capital District Triangle Fire Centennial Coalition, the event will honor those who lost their lives and focus on the wide range of labor, health and safety laws that required better worksites in the aftermath of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.

State Assemblyman John McEneny will emcee the event. U.S. Representative Paul Tonko, WCNY – Syracuse News Director Susan Arbetter and Dr. Christopher Breiseth, a Frances Perkins scholar and former president of Wilkes University, and Paul Cole, Executive Director of the American Labor Studies Center will all be part of the program.

Albany Roman Catholic Diocese Bishop Howard J. Hubbard is also scheduled to participate and help close the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition annual 40-hour fast for social justice, as part of the Triangle Commemoration.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was the greatest work place tragedy New York has seen, prior to the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. This tragedy changed the course of history by shining a bright light on the injustices that occur in the work place. It paved the way for the unyielding efforts to protect workers on the job and reminds us that we must not take work place safety for granted.

Frances Perkins was the first woman to hold a U.S. cabinet post when she served as secretary of labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. Perkins witnessed the Triangle fire, which galvanized her commitment to reforming labor laws. She later served on the New York State Factory Investigating Commission, which recommended reforms in the aftermath of the Triangle fire.

The Capital District Centennial Coalition includes the NYS Department of Labor, NYS Department of Education (NYS Museum, NYS Library, NYS Archives), NYS Archives Partnership Trust, American Labor Studies Center, Catherwood Library-Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, University at Albany, Capital District NY National Association of Women in Construction Chapter, Coalition of Labor Union Women-Kate Mullany Chapter Capital District, NYS Labor-Religion Coalition, Occupational and Environmental Health Center of Eastern NY, OSHA-Albany Office, NYS AFL-CIO, New York State United Teachers, Public Employees Federation, and CSEA.

NYSUT, PEF, CSEA, the New York State Department of Labor and the American Labor Studies Center provided support for the program.

State Museum 1911 Capitol Fire Exhibit Opening


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The “1911 Capitol Fire” exhibition will open at the New York State Museum on March 19 as part of a series of special events and programs commemorating the 100th anniversary of the devastating fire that struck the New York State Capitol.

Many Albany residents awoke in the early morning hours on March 29, 1911 to see the Capitol on fire. The entire western side of the presumed fireproof building was engulfed in flames shooting 200 feet high. The fast-moving flames destroyed much of the State Library, the fifth largest in the U.S., which was housed in the Capitol.

More than 8,000 Museum objects stored in the Capitol were also destroyed or lost. The fire caused the unprecedented destruction of the state’s intellectual, cultural and historic property and also claimed the life of the lone night watchman.

Special events will include a commemoration ceremony at the Capitol on March 29 at 10 a.m., sponsored by the New York State Commission on the Restoration of the Capitol. The State Museum also will host a preview of a WMHT documentary – “The New York Capitol Fire” – in the Huxley Theater on Monday, March 28 at 12:15 p.m. It will air on WMHT on Thursday, March 31.

Open until June 18 in the lobby of the Office of Cultural Education (OCE), the exhibition is a collaboration between the State Museum, State Library and State Archives and chronicles how the fire affected each of the OCE institutions and their collections. It is based largely on the book, “The New York State Capitol and the Great Fire of 1911,” written by Paul Mercer and Vicki Weiss, senior librarians in the State Library’s Manuscripts and Special Collections unit.

The exhibition will include dramatic photographs, eyewitness accounts and artifacts that survived the blaze. One of those is a section of the iron chain link that stretched across the Hudson River between West Point and Constitution Island to prevent British vessels from navigating up the river during the American Revolution. West Point was a strategic site because of the s-curve in the Hudson there that forced large ships to slow down and become an easy target. The links were recovered from the State Library ruins after the fire. Another section of the chain is preserved at the West Point Military Academy.

Also on display are an 1892 fire helmet, lantern and fire nozzle, courtesy of Warren W. Abriel, a deputy chief in the Albany fire department and a fourth-generation Albany firefighter. The helmet was worn by Abriel’s great-grandfather, Reuben H. Abriel, who manned Steamer 2 for the Albany Fire Department when it was a volunteer force.

There also will be several objects showing fire damage that were part of the Museum’s world-famous Lewis Henry Morgan collection. New York state commissioned Morgan to gather objects from the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) communities in the state and from the Six Nations reserve in Canada in 1849-50. All but 50 of some 500 objects were on exhibit.

On the day of the fire Arthur C. Parker, who was Seneca and the state’s first archaeologist, risked his life to save Museum collections and wrote that he was only able to save about 1,500 of the 10,000 objects. The only items in the Morgan collection that survived were in his office. The Parker family assisted Morgan in assembling the collection.

More information on the Morgan collection will be available at one of the programs planned at the Museum to complement the exhibition. The talks are all on Tuesdays at 12:15 p.m. They are:

* March 29 – Talk and Book Signing: “The New York State Capitol and the Great Fire of 1911.” Mercer and Weiss will present dramatic stories and images from their new book. The book will be for sale after the talk and also is available in the Museum shop and from the Friends of the New York State Library – http://nyslfriends.org/, which will receive all royalties from the book.
* April 5 – “The Conservation of Burned Documents.” Paper conservator Susan Bove of the State Archives will discuss contemporary preservation methods that were used to repair documents salvaged from the Capitol Fire. She will also talk about the conservation treatment protocol that she developed to meet the needs of these especially fragile items.
* Tuesday, April 12 – “Lessons Learned: Modern Response to Fire Events in Cultural Institutions.”

Paper conservator Michele Phillips of the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s Bureau of Historic Sites will provide an overview of best practices in action to safeguard collections and their impact on salvage and recovery.

Tuesday, April 19 – “A Capitol Loss: The Lewis Henry Morgan Collection.” Dr. Betty J. Duggan, the Museum’s curator of Ethnography and Ethnology, recounts the collection’s history and the experience of its young curator, Arthur C. Parker, during and after the fire.

The State Museum is a program of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located on Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Further information can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the museum website at www.nysm.nysed.gov.

Photo: Amateur photographer Harry Roy Sweney captured the Capitol inferno at 3:30 a.m. on March 29, 1911. The New York American paid $25.00 for the first print of this dramatic photograph. Courtesy New York State Library, Manuscripts and Special Collections.

Event: State Capitol and the Great Fire of 1911


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On Sunday, March 6, at 2:00 pm, the Albany Institute of History & Art will host a free lecture and book-signing by Paul Mercer and Vicki Weis, authors of the recently published book, The New York State Capitol and the Great Fire of 1911 (Arcadia Publishing, 2011). The lecture will complement a library case display at the Albany Institute of 10 historic photographs documenting the event, including the only known photo in existence of the full view of the building fully consumed by flames.

Weiss and Paul, of the New York State Library’s Manuscripts and Special Collections will discuss their pictorial history of the fire, which occurred on March 29, 1911. The book combines dramatic photographs with eyewitness accounts of the fire, which severely damaged the western portion of the capitol.

Virtually the entire collection of the State Library—as well as significant holdings of the New York State Museum—were destroyed in the blaze, which struck as the Education Department was mere months from relocating to the State Education Building across the street. The book tells not only the story of the fire and its aftermath, but also recounts the history of the construction of the capitol, as well as the pre- and post-fire history of the library.

The Albany Institute of History & Art’s library case display documenting the event includes a selection of 10 rare photos, showing both exterior and interior views taken during and after the actual fire. It also includes images of many of the firemen who responded to the blaze, The display opens on March 4 and closes in June. Viewing is free and open to the public.

The March 6 lecture and book-signing is free and open to the public. Museum admission is not included. Call (518) 463-4478 or visit www.albanyinstitute.org for more information.

Broadcast Marks 100th Anniversary of Triangle Factory Fire


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On March 25th, 1911, a deadly fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York’s Greenwich Village. The blaze ripped through the congested loft as petrified workers — mostly young immigrant women — desperately tried to make their way downstairs. One door was blocked by fire and the other had been locked by the factory owners to prevent theft.

Some workers managed to cram onto the elevator while others ran down an inadequate fire escape which soon pulled away from the masonry and sent them to their deaths. Hundreds of horrified onlookers arrived just in time to see young men and women jumping from the windows, framed by flames. By the time the fire burned itself out, 146 people were dead. All but 23 of the dead were women and nearly half were teenagers.

The harrowing story of an event that changed labor laws forever, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE Triangle Fire is directed and produced by Jamila Wignot (Walt Whitman, The Rehnquist Revolution) and will premiere on Monday, February 28, 2011 at 9:00 PM (check local listings.)

Adirondack Fire Towers History and Lore


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A few years ago I made a list of the Seven Human Made Wonders of the Adirondacks. Taking a look at Martin Podskoch’s two-volume Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, I feel like I left one wonder off that list. Podskoch’s endeavor to chronicle the history and lore of each of the nearly 60 Adirondack fire towers deserves a spot on the shelf of not just those interested in the history of the Adirondacks (where it’s an essential volume), but also those with an interest in the history of forestry, conservation, wildfires, rural labor and community life in remote places. Podskoch’s extensive interviews with those familiar with the towers serves as an important Adirondack oral history of New York’s leadership in wildfire suppression.

After the great fires of 1903 and 1908, when the fire tower system was young, spotters in their lofty perches reported the majority of Adirondack fires, and Forest Ranger set out to put them out. “Times changed for both fire towers and rangers,” Podskoch writes “With advances in telephone communications and a greater awareness of the dangers of fire, more and more fires were being reported initially either by a passerby or by the person who caused the fire.” A 1987 study confirmed once and for all that the fire towers were no longer necessary compared to cheaper overflights. In the previous four years, observers had reported just four percent of the state’s 2,383 wild fires.

Today we don’t generally think of Adirondack forest fires as a threat (that much), but in the early 1960s, dry conditions fostered thousands of fires – 1,532 in 1962. New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller closed the Forest Preserve completely on three occasions during 1963 and 1964. More visitors and second home owners in the late 1960s meant more fires, but at the same time better spotting and reporting using aircraft meant better control.

Still, damaging forest fires seemed so threatening as late as 1971 during the debate over creation of the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), that Chair of the Essex County Board of Supervisors James DeZalia could argue against the APA by saying that “these proposals call for the removal of fire spotting towers, exposing the property and homes of the people in the Adirondacks to destruction by fire.” Thirty years later the debate continues over whether to remove long abandoned fire towers (see Almanack pieces by Dave Gibson and Phil Brown).

There had once been 57 fire towers in the Adirondacks (public and private). In the 1970s and 1980s the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) closed more than 40. In 1990, when the DEC closed the last of the Adirondack fire towers – Bald (Rondaxe), Blue, Hadley, and St. Regis mountains – just 26 remained standing. During the 1990s historic preservationists, local community boosters, and other began organizing to save their local fire towers. Although the Whiteface mountain tower was moved to the Adirondack Museum in 1974, the Blue Mountain tower was the first of the abandoned towers to be restored in 1994.

The two volumes of Adirondack Fire Towers, covering the southern and northern districts, are filled with pictures, memories, and stories, but also hard facts about the origins, locations, and life of the observers who lived and worked them.

Podskoch is now working hard on a new book about Civilian Conservation Corps camps in the Adirondacks.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

ADK Backs Plan to Remove 2 Fire Towers, Preserve Others


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The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) supports the preservation of the vast majority of Adirondack fire towers, but concurs with the Department of Environmental Conservation’s conclusion that the towers on St. Regis and Hurricane mountains are non-conforming uses and should be removed, according to a recently issued press release.

“Fire towers are an important part of the Adirondacks’ history and culture and provide important educational and recreational benefits,” said Neil Woodworth, ADK’s executive director. “For the hiking public, which ADK represents, a fire tower can provide the reward of a panoramic view after a demanding climb. But Hurricane and St. Regis already have spectacular views, so even if these towers were open, they would add nothing to visitors’ experience of these summits.” Here is the rest of the club’s press release:

For nearly two decades, the Adirondack Mountain Club has been a leader in the effort to preserve and restore the Adirondacks’ historic fire towers, which are monuments to the fire observers who protected the region’s forests and communities. In 1993, the club invited interested parties to the Indian Lake Town Hall to discuss ways to restore the Blue Mountain Fire Tower. That successful restoration effort became a model for other fire tower projects. ADK also publishes “Views from on High,” by John P. Freeman, a guide to fire tower trails in the Adirondacks and Catskills. Furthermore, ADK’s volunteer and professional trails crews have done considerable work in recent years to maintain the trails to fire tower summits, including Mount Arab, Azure Mountain, Pillsbury Mountain, St. Regis Mountain and Hurricane Mountain.

ADK has been an equally strong supporter of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, including its language permitting the maintenance and restoration of fire towers in Wild Forest areas. The Master Plan, which is codified in state Executive Law, clearly states that fire towers located in Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe areas are non-conforming structures. In 2005, ADK’s board of directors passed a resolution opposing any changes to the Master Plan that would allow fire towers to remain in Wilderness, Primitive or Canoe areas. The ADK board also opposed spot zoning that would carve out historic-area footprints on fire-tower summits in Wilderness, Primitive or Canoe areas.

ADK welcomes DEC’s “Fire Tower Study for the Adirondack Park,” an in-depth, thoughtful analysis that will provide much-needed guidance in determining the future of the 20 remaining fire towers in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. It takes a broad, parkwide view that takes into account the characteristics, location and existing or potential public benefits of each tower. It goes a long way in resolving, through objective criteria, the debate over which towers should remain and which should be removed.

Aside from the substantial legal issues, a number of practical considerations make these two towers poor candidates for preservation and restoration in their current locations. Neither is used for communications purposes. Both towers have long been long closed to the public, with their lower stairs removed. Despite the removal of the stairs, some people still attempt to climb these towers, which makes them public hazards.

From a historical perspective, neither of these structures is unique. The St. Regis and Hurricane fire towers are 35-foot Aermotor steel towers, Model LS-40, erected in 1918 and 1919, respectively. There are 11 other fire towers of this same size and model extant in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Neither St. Regis nor Hurricane is the oldest, the newest, the shortest or the tallest among Adirondack fire towers.

Nor does the towers’ listing on national and state historic registers provide them with any special status. These and other Adirondack fire towers were added to the historic registers pursuant to a 1994 agreement between DEC and the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation that acknowledged from the outset that some of these towers would be saved and others removed.

While ADK supports removal of these two towers from their current locations, the club does not believe they should be discarded or scrapped. Relocation has long been an important tool in preserving structures of historic significance, including the Adirondack fire towers that have been relocated to the Adirondack Museum and the Adirondack History Center in Elizabethtown. The St. Regis and Hurricane towers should be relocated to other mountain summits or to public locations where the public can view and enjoy them.

The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the New York State Forest Preserve and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.

New York City Fire Department History Lecture


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The New York Public Library’s Bloomingdale Library (150 W 100th St, NYC) will play host to a lecture on the history of the New York City Fire Department on Thursday, October 8, 2009 from 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM. Robert Holzmaier, Chief, Eleventh Battalion which covers Manhattan’s Upper West Side will be discussing fire extinguishing in 1609, the first controversial fire tax; hooks & ladders; horses and dogs; the connection to the city’s water supply; the city’s great conflagrations; attempts to destroy the city by fire; fire company feuds; and the the uses of volunteers.

You can learn more about the history of the New York City Fire Department at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/fdny/html/history/fire_service.shtml