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Sat., Sept. 3, 2016, 8:18 p.m.

Little Snowy Top Lookout destroyed by fire; cause investigated

PUBLIC LANDS -- The Little Snowy Top fire lookout in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness has burned to the ground, according to an Idaho fire dispatch report today, Sept. 3.

The fire sounds suspicious since no land was burned.

Here's the report from the Coeur d’Alene Interagency Dispatch Center:

Confirmed Fire  From: ID-CDC CAD # - 510 , Fire Name - Little Snowy Lookout , Lat/Long - 48 58.411 x 117 00.169 , Protection - D8 , Ownership - FS , Acres - n/a Structure fire , Addtl Needs - INVF, Little Snowy Lookout burned to the ground, no wildland was involved.

Here's a 6:20 p.m. report from Gary Weber, assistant Dispatch Center manager for the Idaho Department of Lands:

Just got confirmation that Little Snowy Lookout burned earlier this afternoon.
First report was that someone at Salmo saw it through a spotting scope sometime between 2:30-3:00, sent helicopter up, but it was socked in then. 
Helicopter went back up 45 minutes ago and confirmed.
Getting info that 2 hunters stayed in the lookout last night and had a fire in the stove.
This is incredibly sad and senseless.
 
According to the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, "A member of the public reported the fire to the Northeast Washington Interagency Communications Center. The Coeur d’Alene Interagency Dispatch Center immediately dispatched firefighters to the lookout by helicopter.  Unfortunately, the structure was completely engulfed in flames and could not be saved.  The fire did not escape the immediate area and was completely contained."

 

Situated on Little Snowy Top Mountain, Idaho, elevation 6,829 feet, it was the only remaining 1930s vintage groundhouse L-4 lookout in the Priest Lake area of North Idaho.

The U.S. Forest Service had phased out its use for firefighting in the 1960s, but because of its remote location, it escaped demolition -- a common Forest Service practice for old lookouts to dodge liability. 

It's accessible by several wilderness trails, requiring at least nine miles of hiking one-way. It's two miles south of the U.S.-Canada border on the Shedroof Divide in Boundary County, Idaho, and one mile east of the Washington border on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

The lookout was open to all on a first-come basis.

In 1988, volunteers from the Spokane Mountaineers and the Priest River Back Country Horsemen assisted the Priest Lake Ranger District of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests in a two-year restoration effort of the 14-by-14 foot groundhouse.

I reported just last week that hikers were mistreating the historic structure.

The structure was listed on the National Historic Lookout Register in 1995.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.  Law enforcement officials from the Idaho Panhandle National Forests are leading the investigation with assistance from law enforcement officials on the Colville National Forest, and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.




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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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