continued “It allows us to stretch our limited resources that much further,” said DEC spokesman David Winchell.
He added that while restoring the historic structures is important, the biggest benefit is the public education encouraged by restoration efforts.
Five tower projects have begun since the association formed, and other projects joined the Adirondack Fire Tower Association umbrella at its beginning. Thomas-Train said there's no strict life cycle for tower revitalization. Some towers have done it in as little as two years, others can take nearly a decade.
“There’s no blueprint,” he said.
To support the project, they do fundraising, often selling patches, posters and t-shirts, though no fundraising is allowed on-site. There are state constitutional clauses forbidding that. It’s possible to get around that if there are adjoining private properties.
The friends groups provide a mechanism for local people who know and are particularly attached to a place, said Thomas-Train, those who have emotional ownership.
The towers are deeply rooted in Adirondack history. With a high level of logging and extended droughts at the dawn of the 20th century, steam locomotives hauling lumber spewed sparks from their smokestacks, igniting dry trees. The worst years were 1903 and 1908, which combined saw nearly one million acres of forest burned, about a sixth of the total land area of the larger-than-Vermont state park. This extensive burning sent smoke as thick as fog to New York City and blanketed nearby cities like Utica with ash.
Responding to public outcry, Governor Charles Evans Hughes launched the fire tower program. Fifty-seven of the towers were built in the Adirondack Park, where they were staffed daily during the forest fire season. The first Lyon Mountain tower was built in 1910.
The tower sighters worked April to October, and some even lived at the fire tower cabins with their families. To make the summit cabins more homey, they'd add outbuildings for firewood and perishables, grow apple trees and dig vegetable cellars.