Something Even Better than working on a lighthouse?
In an email with an ex British Columbia (BC) lighthouse keeper he mentioned that he was going to work in Alberta, Canada as a Fire Tower Lookout!
What does that have to do with lighthouses?
A lot from many people’s perspective! Both jobs have the isolation and romance that a lot of people seek in a job. When I was younger I know it was always in the back of my mind.
Again the same questions pop up – Wouldn’t it be lonely? What about wild animals? What happens if you hurt yourself? These and many more questions are asked, but to the adventurous, it is part of the adventure. Anyways, take a look at the photo at the top – that is an Alberta lookout tower but not as you or I probably imagined it – sitting on the ground!
The photo is taken from a 2011 story by Calgary Herald reporterJamie Komarnicki Mystery and mountains: A look at Alberta forest fire spotters.
I am sixty-seven and my friend told me that even I was not too young to go work one of the towers, but from reading the rest of the article I hear the competition is great – a lot of people have the dream just like those that want to be lighthouse keepers. This part of the article was most interesting to me:
Provincial wildfire detection coordinator Tim Klein described the job as 90 per cent boredom and 10 per cent chaos. One of my favourite quotes of the story came when I asked Klein about the romance often associated with the working life at these solitary outposts (captured in fiction with Beat legend Jack Kerouac’s novel, Desolation Angels, which he wrote as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak). – click here or the title above to read the full story
For those of you who wish to find out more information, here is the link to apply: for the Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) Job Classification as Lookout Observer.
The above page gives you General Information and salary, Position Qualifications, Roles and Responsibilities, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and the most important one – How to Apply!
I know that this FAQ will interest you as it did me:
What is provided at the lookout site?
The facilities include the main house, which comprises:
a combination living room/kitchen
a small separate room for an office
a small bedroom
There is a small propane refrigerator, stove and heater. The propane is provided. There is an engine house where the power plant is located and an outhouse.
The lookout tower itself may be 6 m (20 ft.) to 36 m (120 ft.) in height or a cabin type with access through a hole in the ceiling (see my question above about wild animals). The average tower height is 30 m (100 ft.).
You are responsible to insure that the house and related facilities are kept in a neat and clean condition at all times. As well, most sites have a small shed for miscellaneous storage.
There is no running water. Rain water is collected in barrels and boiled for washing. Bathing/shower facilities are usually the result of individual ingenuity. Groceries are not provided. Drinking water is provided.
So, it is a lot like living on a lighthouse except for the hole in the ceiling access!
And here is a list of Active Fire Weather Stations. This list includes the Lookout Towers (maybe not all of them as I could not find Limestone Lookout here) as well as Automatic Stations, Ranger Stations, Contract Stations and Alberta (AB) Agriculture Stations. Some of the stations have links – if you know of more, please let me know and I will add them.
|ID||Station Name||Station Type|
|AC||Adams Creek||Lookout Tower|
|B2||Willow Creek||Automatic Station|
|B3||Yaha Tinda||Automatic Station|
|B4||Kananaskis Boundary||Automatic Station|
|B5||Peter Lougheed Park||Automatic Station|
|B6||Burnt Timber||Automatic Station|
|B8||North Ghost||Automatic Station|
|BD||Bald Mountain||Lookout Tower|
|BE||Berland Hills||Lookout Tower|
|BH||Blue Hill||Lookout Tower|
|BI||Birch Mountain||Lookout Tower|
|BP||Barrier Lake||Lookout Tower|
|BR||Battle Riiver||Lookout Tower|
|BS||Bison Lake||Lookout Tower|
|C1||Livingston Gap||Automatic Station|
|C3||Poll Haven||Automatic Station|
|C5||Cypress Hills||Automatic Station|
|CC||Carrot Creek||Lookout Tower|
|CH||Clear Hills||Lookout Tower|
|CL||Calling Lake||Ranger Station|
|CP||Cowpar Lake||Lookout Tower|
|CY||Chipewyan Lakes||Lookout Tower|
|DM||Deer Mountain||Lookout Tower|
|E2||Schwartz Creek||Automatic Station|
|E3||Casket Mountain||Automatic Station|
|E5||Grande Cache||Automatic Station|
|EC||Economy Creek||Lookout Tower|
|EL||Ells River||Lookout Tower|
|ER||Elk River||Ranger Station|
|F5||Bistcho Lake||Automatic Station|
|FA||Ft Assiniboine||Ranger Station|
|FG||Foggy Mountain||Lookout Tower|
|FT||Flat Top||Lookout Tower|
|FV||Fort Vermilion||Ranger Station|
|GF||Grave Flats||Lookout Tower|
|GL||Gordon Lake||Lookout Tower|
|GM||Goose Mountain||Lookout Tower|
|GT||Gift Lake||Lookout Tower|
|HB||Hailstone Butte||Lookout Tower|
|HC||Hines Creek||Ranger Station|
|HH||Hawk Hills||Lookout Tower|
|HL||Heart Lake||Lookout Tower|
|HM||House Mountain||Lookout Tower|
|JE||Jean Lake||Lookout Tower|
|JM||Junction Mountain||Lookout Tower|
|JO||Johnson Lake||Lookout Tower|
|KG||Keg River||Ranger Station|
|L1||Bovine Creek||Automatic Station|
|L2||Ground Zero||Automatic Station|
|LA||Lambert Creek||Lookout Tower|
|LN||Loon River||Contract Station|
|MH||Mockingbird Hill||Lookout Tower|
|MR||Marten Mountain||Lookout Tower|
|MS||Moose Mountain||Lookout Tower|
|MU||Muskeg Mountain||Lookout Tower|
|NL||Narrow Lakes||Lookout Tower|
|NM||Nose Mountain||Lookout Tower|
|OJ||High Level||Ranger Station|
|OL||Otter Lake||Lookout Tower|
|PS||Pass Creek||Lookout Tower|
|R2||Ram Falls||Automatic Station|
|R3||Elk River||Automatic Station|
|R4||Kootenay Plains||Automatic Station|
|RE||Red Earth||Lookout Tower|
|RH||Round Hill||Lookout Tower|
|RK||Rock Island Lake||Lookout Tower|
|RR||Raspberry Ridge||Lookout Tower|
|S2||Marten Hills||Automatic Station|
|S5||Loon River||Automatic Station|
|SA||Saddle Hills||Lookout Tower|
|SC||Sneddon Creek||Contract Station|
|SD||Swan Dive||Lookout Tower|
|SL||Smoky Lake||AB Agriculture|
|SN||Snuff Mountain||Lookout Tower|
|SO||Shining Bank||Contract Station|
|SP||Salt Prairie||Lookout Tower|
|SQ||Sandy Lake||Lookout Tower|
|SR||Sand River||Lookout Tower|
|ST||Stony Mountain||Lookout Tower|
|TM||Trout Mountain||Lookout Tower|
|TO||Tom Hill||Lookout Tower|
|TP||Teepee Lake||Lookout Tower|
|TT||Talbot Lake||Lookout Tower|
|W2||Eta Lake||Automatic Station|
|W5||Fox Creek||Automatic Station|
|W6||Timeu Creek||Automatic Station|
|W7||Berland Hills||Automatic Station|
|WM||White Mountain||Lookout Tower|
|WR||Wandering River||Ranger Station|
|WT||Watt Mountain||Lookout Tower|
And last but not least, here is another story by Stuart Gradon on the Alberta Lookout Towers with more photos and video.
[private]Fire lookouts in Alberta
August 22, 2011. 12:34 pm
I recently wrapped up work on a weekend story by Herald reporter Jamie Komarnicki on fire lookouts in Alberta. It involved traveling out to a couple of lookouts in the Kananaskis Country. We ended up hiking up to the Kananaskis lookout, which is manned by Joe Burritt, and hitching a ride on a supply transport helicopter to the Barrier Lake lookout, where Chip McCullough keeps watch.
The people who man these posts serve as the first lines of defense guarding against forest fires. The solitary lifestyle of these sentinels seems to breed characters. And is sometimes the case with such subjects, their personalities manifest themselves in the clothes they wear – McCullough with his newsboy cap and wool cardigan, Burritt with is white cowboy hat. All good things for a photographer who’s searching for effective portrait images.
Throw in the fact that the images were captured on mountaintops and you have the perfect ‘environmental portrait’ storm, so to speak. I’m sure most photographers would agree that the Rocky Mountains have a consistent and appealing tendency to serve as an excellent backdrop for pictures.
The Rockies also added a little something extra to the mountaintop video interview with McCullough – using a video capable DSLR camera, a Canon 1D mark IV, equipped with a long lens and a wireless mic. The equipment allowed for the camera to be placed at distance, producing a virtual video portrait – a more attractive result than the standard talking head.
I’ll echo the soft-spoken, simple sentiment expressed by fire lookout veteran McCullough when describing his place of work.
“I really like these mountains,” he says. “I really like them. I like them a lot.”
Video: Chip McCullough mans the Barrier Lake fire lookout
And for the record, and in an admittedly self-indulgent move to recycle a couple of images from two years ago, this wasn’t my first Rocky Mountain chopper experience. In 2009 I hitched a ride on a helicopter to get images of a prescribed burn administered by forestry services in Kananaskis Country. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
- A prescribed burn near Bryant Creek, west of Spray Lakes, in Kananaskis Country Thursday, September 24, 2009. Photo: Stuart Gradon, Calgary Herald [/private]
- [private] Mystery and mountains: A look at Alberta forest fire spotters
August 21, 2011. 12:01 pmBy Stuart Gradon
Five years ago when I first moved to Calgary, I went on my first ever hike with some Herald journos up Moose Mountain. The top of the climb provided a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains for a new Calgary gal. It also took us to the door of the Moose Mountain fire lookout, where fire spotter Joe Burritt lived and worked. That summer was also the year that fire tower work Stephanie Stewart went missing from her Athabasca tower in a case where RCMP suspect foul play.
Half a decade later, Stephanie’s disappearance is still a mystery. As I worked on Stephanie’s story, I also set out to write afeature looking at the lives of fire tower workers. Herald photographer Stuart Gradon and I had the chance to visit a couple lookouts, including a hike up to the Kananaskis tower where Joe Burritt – the fire spotter I’d first met at Moose Mountain five years ago – is now stationed. We also had the chance to take a helicopter ride up to the Barrier Lake lookout to interview Chip McCullough, another lookout veteran.
Provincial wildfire detection coordinator Tim Klein described the job as 90 per cent boredom and 10 per cent chaos. One of my favourite quotes of the story came when I asked Klein about the romance often associated with the working life at these solitary outposts (captured in fiction with Beat legend Jack Kerouac’s novel,Desolation Angels, which he wrote as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak).
“The whole makeup of the social aspect of being a human being is changed dramatically out there,” Klein said.
“You have to like yourself. You can’t go there to find yourself.”
Interested? Competition is stiff, I’m told, but here’s the link to apply. [/private]