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Arson Levels Forest Service Fire Lookout

Sun., Nov. 16, 1997

Forest lookouts have a remarkable history of standing up to the lightning fires they were built to battle. But the towers have been no match against the match.

The Quartz Mountain lookout, situated on a ridge at 4,830-feet, six miles southeast of Republic, burned to the ground on Oct. 7. Colville National Forest officials say the cabin and 30-foot tower fell victim to arson. The case is being investigated.

The lookout was closed for official use in 1977, but the stairs were open so visitors could climb for a view. Area groups were lobbying the Forest Service to restore the lookout and open it on a rental basis.

Fire has been the nemesis of lookouts in the Colville. Ironically, Forest Service officials have lit most of the matches.

In 1964, the Forest Service lost a court case finding the agency liable for an injury that had occurred at a lookout, said lookout historian Ray Kresek of Spokane. Forest Service officials in Washington, D.C., issued a notice that national forests should begin elmininating the liability of lookouts that were out of service.

In the Colville National Forest, lookout towers already had been destroyed at Skalawag Ridge and mountains such as South Huckleberry, Columbia, Copper Butte, Thirteen Mile and White, although the original 1914 cabin still remains on Columbia.

Sheep Mountain lookout near Swan Lake was one of the first to go after the 1964 lawsuit.

Lookouts on Barnaby Butte, Bodie, Marble and Twin Sisters mountains were destroyed in the mid-70s. The Graves Mountain lookout was removed and rebuilt at a museum in Colville in 1985.

Forest Service lookouts still stand on Cornell Butte plus mountains such as Sullivan, Salmo and Bonaparte where there is another 1914 cabin.

, DataTimes

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