By Mary-Justine Lanyon
Ray Villa, the leader of the Strawberry Peak fire lookout tower, was joined by fellow lookout hosts Kathy Rossler and Diane Witter at Goodwin & Son’s Market in Crestline on March 18 as they recruited additional hosts.
In a press release sent out by Fire Lookout Program Manager Shane Harris, he describes the purpose of the fire lookouts: “(They) help protect the forest, local mountain communities, as well as communities along the forest boundary from the threat of fire.”
Perhaps just as important is the host’s role as a docent, describing their duties and the surrounding area to tower guests.
Every morning, Rossler explained, the host measures the temperature, humidity and wind speed. They call those numbers into dispatch. They take the measurements again in the middle of day, only reporting them if there have been significant changes.
While talking with guests, the hosts keep a keen eye on the surrounding area, watching for any signs of smoke. They use the Osborne Firefinder to get a reading on any fires spotted.
Two seasons ago, Villa said, they had 7,800 visitors to Strawberry Peak. Those visitors – and Rossler – are especially intrigued by the variety of birds they spot high atop the tower.
“We buy a lot of bird seed,” Villa said. “The birds watch for us to fill the feeders.”
In addition to Strawberry Peak, guests can also visit Keller Peak fire lookout tower in Running Springs.
New volunteer training for lookout hosts will begin on April 4. According to Harris, volunteers must attend four training classes – a two-hour orientation class, a three-hour natural history class, a seven-hour operations class and at least one all-day in-tower training with an experienced host.