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For Immediate Release: July 25, 2006

Andy J. Flynn | keith.mckeever@apa.ny.gov 
Public Relations | Adirondack Park Agency | Press Office | (518) 327-3000

Paul Smiths Vic Summer Lecture Series: "Fire Towers In The Northern Adirondacks" On Aug. 2

PAUL SMITHS, NY – The Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) at Paul Smiths will host another installment of the Adirondack Almanac Lecture Series on Wednesday, Aug. 2 with a presentation on local Adirondack fire towers. Marty Podskoch, author of the new book "Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, the Northern Districts," will start his "Fire Towers of the Northern Adirondacks" program at 7:30 p.m. in the Paul Smiths VIC theater. Podskoch's book contains information and pictures about the 25 state fire towers in Essex, Clinton, Franklin and St. Lawrence counties and the one private tower on Meenahga Hill near Rainbow Lake.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, fires raged out of control in the many of New York State's vast wooded areas. The years 1903 and 1908 were particularly disastrous, and because of public outcry for protection from the devastation, the state began a rigorous fire and prevention and control program, including the building of fire towers.

The first state fire towers in the Adirondacks were established in the Adirondacks in 1909 on Mount Morris in Franklin County, Gore Mountain in Warren County, and West, Snowy and Hamilton mountains in Hamilton County. Three other towers were established in the Catskills.

Each tower was equipped with a telephone, a map, and binoculars. When smoke was sighted, an observer would call in the location of the fire to a forest ranger. These wooden towers were replaced with steel towers and the use of towers greatly reduced the number of acres destroyed by fires because they were extinguished at the early stages. Eventually the state had about 114 fire towers operating throughout the state in 1960. In 1971 the state started to use air surveillance and gradually closed the fire towers to save money. By 1990 the remaining four fire towers in the Adirondacks and one in the Catskills were closed. Fifty-two towers were removed but many remained and began to deteriorate due to lack of maintenance.

A few communities heard that the state might remove their local tower. They raised money and restored the towers. Today these towers have been restored in the Adirondacks: Mount Arab, Blue, Hadley, Goodnow, Kane, White Face, Cathederal Rock (at the Ranger School in Wanakena), Number Four (Lowville), Azure, Poke-O-Moonshine, Rondaxe (Bald), and Snowy mountains. The following towers are in the process of restoration: Adams and Vanderwacker mountains.

Two towers on Hurricane and St. Regis mountains are awaiting a decision by the DEC and APA to see if these towers will be saved or removed. These towers: Spruce (Saratoga County), Stillwater (Herkimer County), and Loon Lake (Franklin) are awaiting approval for public access through private lands. Then a local restoration group will be sought for restoration work. Five Catskills fire towers, Mount Tremper, Hunter, Balsam Lake, Red Hill, and Overlook mountain towers, were restored. With the restoration of the fire towers, hikers, families and school children can visit a fire tower that helped prevent the devastation of fires. After climbing the fire tower, the hiker is rewarded with a 360-degree panoramic view of the forests, lakes, mountains and valleys since most of the mountains are covered with trees.

Podskoch recently retired from teaching reading for 36 years. He taught the last 28 years at Delaware Academy in Delhi, N.Y. He became interested in fire towers after climbing Hunter Mountain in the fall of 1987 where he met an old observer and Podskoch wanted to find out more information about the history and lore of the fire towers. Purple Mountain Press then asked him to write about the history of the Catskill fire towers and the restoration project that was occurring in the Catskills. After interviewing hundreds of observers, rangers and their families, he was able to gather their stories and pictures about working at the 23 Catskill fire towers. In 2000 his book, Fire Towers of the Catskill: Their History and Lore, was published. Purple Mountain Press published his second book, Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, the Southern Districts, in June of 2003. Purple Mountain Press published "Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, the Northern Districts" in November 2005. Podskoch and his wife, Lynn, recently moved to Colchester, Conn. The Adirondack Almanac Lecture Series is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by the St. Regis Restaurant in Paul Smiths. The New York State Adirondack Park Agency operates two VICs, in Paul Smiths and Newcomb, which serve as Adirondack Park HQ for parkwide interpretation. They are open year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Christmas and Thanksgiving and offer a wide array of educational programs, exhibits, miles of interpretive trails and visitor information services. Admission is free. The Paul Smiths VIC is located 12 miles north of Saranac Lake on Route 30. For more information about the VICs, call (518) 327-3000 or log on to the centersÂ’ Web site at www.adkvic.org.