Konocti Fire Lookout Closed

State Inspector shuts down Mt Konocti Tower on Wright Peak.

“Saint Helena, this is Konocti Tower… out of service.”

2019.10.04 • I may never again get to say that… at the end of a long shift, after looking out over all of Lake County’s green and blue magnificence, to keep my fellow citizens safer from fires and other disasters. It is with concern for the safety of Lake County’s people, animals and natural splendor, that I must report sad news to you. Today, a CA State Inspector has shut down the Mt Konocti Fire Lookout Tower on nearby Wright Peak. Mark your calendars, friends. It might be a long wait. 🙁

The details will be available through the local Forest Fire Lookout Association (where I volunteer for shifts on the tower), but the preliminary information is that the Inspector locked us out —well before the end of Fire Season— for what he deemed to be unsafe conditions related the tower’s physical state (dry rot, weakened steel, cracking concrete). At first, I wondered if they were talking about me. 😉

Personally, as a volunteer lookout, I don’t mind an appropriate level of risk — if it saves lives and property. Sure the tower is old and worn (who isn’t?), but it’s not statistically likely to fall down until after fire season 2019. To add some perspective, I’m pretty sure the firefighters who go and actually put out the fires are willing to accept a similar class of risks (to a higher degree, of course) and for the same reasons.

As a community, we are suddenly less safe, but a few dozen volunteers will be safer, so… consider that logic. On the bright side, we could now become more dependent on one PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) Security Camera mounted by CalFire on the northeast corner of the tower. You can see the images here. As you will see, the difference between those PTZ cameras and human beings with brains and powerful binoculars is… significant. Peripheral vision, a human brain and way better magnification will beat a camera any day.

Now, we as a community must find a way to compensate for this loss. The tower closure could last somewhere between “a fairly long time” and “never coming back online”. We’ve been metaphorically poked in the eye with a stick and left half-blind as a community to eruptions of smoke, flames and human foibles all around Lake County and beyond. We need more than ever to focus our collective energy on keeping each other safe. That starts with talking to each other, as do many other solutions to what ails our society. Talk. Get to know people. Feel comfy calling them for help or going to help when they call. Learn the emergency protocols, like our “directed net”. Join a FireWise group (we have SIX all around Cobb!). Know where the places people talk about are located (yes, we need better maps on this website!).

So, if you’ve been sitting on the fence, waiting to see how this whole “volunteer emergency radio network” thing works out… well, it’s time now for you to step up, for your own safety and that of others too, including your loved ones and friendly neighbors. Get a radio and join us on the radio checks. There was talk of going back to one radio check per week, but now that Konocti Tower is going “out of service” indefinitely… I think we might go to three radio checks a week. Vigilance plus readiness equals life.

It’s easy to get involved and be part of the solution

 

Dav

Author: Dav

Dav works on the Harmless Little Project (HLP) for the CryptoRights Foundation (CRF) at their CIPHR ThinkTank near Cobb, which includes the VERN project and the CAVERN project.

5 thoughts on “Konocti Fire Lookout Closed”

  1. There is not YET much more clear information from FFLA or CalFire, at least not beyond what I’ve mentioned in the original post. For what it’s worth, an FFLA internal posting for lookout volunteers reads as follows:

    “The Konocti Lookout is closed as of 10/3/19 for safety reasons. All watches scheduled after that are officially cancelled. You may no longer schedule watches until further notice”

  2. 2019.11.09 UPDATE

    An article posted today in the Record-Bee provides additional information on the Konocti Tower closure and it’s possible future:
    https://www.record-bee.com/2019/11/09/konocti-fire-lookout-tower-shut-down-after-safety-inspection/

    The FFLA met last week and our membership discussed the tower’s reconstruction. FFLA leadership was set to meet with the California State inspectors last Tuesday 5 Nov to learn more about what we and our fellow Lake County citizens can do to get it reopened. I’ll update everyone here on the CAVERN website as soon as our leadership reports back.

    The most likely scenario is that it’s going to take a community effort to get the one fire lookout re-opened, probably including some online crowdfunding efforts to raise some of the reconstruction costs. We were told that KV Lumber was willing to donate some of the building supplies, but it looks likely that FFLA members will have to do the actual work under the supervision of a state-licensed contractor appropriately experienced for this kind of project.

    I’ll post more information as soon as possible…

    1. New information emerged in early December 2019 in this Record-Bee story:
      https://www.record-bee.com/2019/12/03/pending-cal-fire-decision-konoctis-fire-tower-could-need-full-replacement

      Excerpts:

      “Volunteers are still waiting to find out how much it could cost to fix the [CalFire-owned] Konocti fire lookout tower [on Lake County land] after it was shut down following a safety inspection in October. … Rough estimates last month had indicated repairs might run between $10,000 and $50,000. … Now, costs [to completely replace the entire tower may be] … between $150,000 and $200,000 [but] Historic building regulations would allow the tower to be fixed for [under] $50,000 … therefore, Cal Fire is willing to sign over responsibility of the lookout repairs to FFLA [to preserve an] historic building and the historic activity associated with [it]. … [Donations] to fix the Konocti tower [can be sent] to the FFLA (Forest Fire Lookout Association) at 30021 McKenna Heights, Valley Center, CA, 92082. [Lake County] contractors interested in [the Konocti Tower Repair] project can call [FFLA regional director Bill] Ulmer at [7l4 473.5lll].”

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