Sunday, May 18, 2008

Keystone Chapter SAF Meeting Looks Up to Fire Towers

Twenty-six members of the Keystone Chapter of the Society of American Foresters (SAF), including eleven Penn State Mont Alto forestry students, met last Thursday evening at the Lighthouse Restaurant in Chambersburg.


Merl Waltz presented the History of Fire Towers in PA with a series of historical photos. The use of fire towers began at Mont Alto as the students were detailed to fight forest fires. At first they climbed prominent hills and even trees. Eventually makeshift towers were secured to tall trees. These eventually developed into manufactured steel towers placed strategically around the State. It became a source of community pride to have a functioning tower. Merle described the often tedious work of a fire tower observer and how the workers coped with the long hours and strenuous conditions.

Eventually fire towers gave way to aerial spotters. Today, with more people living in rural areas, the use of airplanes, and better communication (cell phones and radios) there is less need for towers. A few are still in use however. Others suffer from vandalism. Some may be preserved for their historical value.


Chapter chairman Mike Kusko (right) presents Ralph Heilig with his 50 year SAF Golden Membership Award.


Member Jason Hines describes his experiences at the recent SAF National Leadership Academy.

Keystone Chapter officers were elected at the meeting. From left to right: Merle Waltz (executive committee), Mike Kusko (Chairman), Scott Kurtzman (executive committee), and Craig Houghton (Secretary-Treasurer). Absent were Steve Wacker (vice-Chairman) and Rachel Billingham (Executive Committee).

Thanks to the Keystone Chapter members for generously sponsoring the students. It was greatly appreciated after a day of timber harvesting at summer camp!

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