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Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places

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Mountain Fire Lookout Tower (M. Bruhy photo, 2008)

Mountain Fire Lookout Tower (M. Bruhy photo, 2008)

Mountain Fire Lookout Tower (M. Bruhy photo, 2008)

Mountain Fire Lookout Tower
Nicolet National Forest, Town of Riverview, Oconto County
Date of construction: 1932
Fabricator: Aeromotor Company

The Mountain Fire Lookout Tower is situated two miles north of the community of Mountain in Oconto County, in the Nicolet National Forest. The tower is a galvanized steel structure resting on four concrete piers. An interior stairway rises through the center of the tower to the lookout, or cab, at the top. Prefabricated by the Aermotor Company in 1932, the Mountain Fire Lookout Tower was initially erected by the Wisconsin Conservation Commission at another location in the Nicolet National Forest. In 1935, the tower was moved to its current site.

The tower represents the cooperative effort of the USDA Forest Service and the Wisconsin Conservation Commission (now the Department of Natural Resources) to protect northern Wisconsin's timber resources from the ravages of fire. The two agencies developed a fire detection and suppression program in the 1930s. The fire lookout tower served as the central link in the fire detection system. Constructed on the highest points in an area, these towers were distributed so as to form a network that would keep the entire landscape under surveillance. During daylight hours from May through September, trained fire spotters kept constant watch over the surrounding area from the cab at the top of the tower. The Mountain Fire Lookout Tower is one of two remaining towers out of the 19 that once served the Nicolet National Forest. Fire lookout towers remained the prime method of fire detection in the Nicolet National Forest into the 1960s. The last fire called in from the Mountain Tower occurred on 25 April 1970.

The Mountain Fire Lookout Tower is one of the last remaining structures associated with the CCC in the Nicolet National Forest. During the Depression years, the CCC was a major presence in the state and national forests of Wisconsin, and its men (and a few women) provided much of the physical labor that was associated with fire protection in these forests during this period. A local CCC camp is believed to have dismantled the Mountain Fire Lookout Tower and move it to its present site in 1935. Camp enrollees also manned the tower, and were assigned fire-fighting duties in the area through at least 1941.

The tower is open to the public.

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