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Duties include but are not limited to:
Forest Lookouts use binoculars and visual observation to constantly observe the surrounding area for signs of wildfire.
Determine azimuth and distance with Osborne fire finder and maps to plot location to nearest ¼ section.
Report locations and characteristics to dispatch.
Use portable and mobile radios.
Monitor two way radio communications.
Record information in radio log, monitor lightning storms, reporting direction and distance of thunder cells.
Record downstrikes for follow-up detection and possible action.
Collect and report daily weather observations including: temperature, relative humidity, storm activity, state of the weather, and precipitation to dispatch office.
Coordinate fire detection with other lookouts, aircraft, and other personnel.
Act as communication relay where radio transmissions are difficult, between field personnel and dispatch.
Provide updates on smoke characteristics to fire managers.
Report suspicious activity related to fire.
Complete building safety checklist and submits to supervisor.
Report all safety hazards, damage, and unsafe conditions to supervisor.
Report suspected violations of fire prevention restrictions.
Complete daily maintenance and housekeeping of lookout facility to maintain a positive public image.
What Is a Fire Lookout’s Job?
According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), an average of 4,630 structure fires break out every year related to hot work. Each year, these fires account for 15 civilian deaths, 198 civilian injuries, and $355 million in direct property damage.
As a fire watch, your job is to make sure your job site doesn’t become a statistic.
Your primary duty is to sound the alarm in case of emergency, but you’re also responsible for monitoring hazardous hot work. This means finding and putting out small fires started by the sparks and bits of molten metal that fly around during welding or cutting work.
When a worker is on fire watch duty, they’re not allowed to do anything else. Their attention must be focused on surveying the area near the hot work and detecting early signs of trouble. Additional duties aren’t allowed, because they distract from identifying and controlling fire hazards.
Fire watch jobs often include pre-shift inspections of a hot work area, including the inspection of the work site, the removal of combustible materials where possible, and the setup and inspection of fire extinguishing equipment.
There are also post-shift fire watch duties, because smoldering fires can break out over time. OSHA requires fire watch to continue for at least thirty minutes after hot work is complete, while the NFPA recommends at least an hour.
Ability to: Read and write English at a level required for successful job performance; learn to locate the position of fires by mechanical means, such as an alidade or an Osborne Fire Finder, to recognize smoke from fixed sources and differentiate from fire smoke within observable distances from his/her tower, to read maps, to communicate the location of fires by radio and telephone to the headquarters office; learn fire fighting methods, equipment, and terminology; maintain lookout tower and adjacent grounds in an orderly condition, explain fire prevention practices and purposes and operation of a fire lookout tower to the visiting public; to read instructions and write legibly simple reports which contain both letters and symbols.
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Lookouts are responsible for the general maintenance and upkeep of fire towers and grounds. They maintain lookout equipment, making minor adjustments and repairs. Lookouts also keep records and daily logs, and perform other routine administrative tasks. On occasion, lookouts provide forest and fire prevention information to hikers who visit their fire towers.
Forest fire lookouts may work full-time or part-time. Many hold temporary positions, usually working during the forest fire season, which varies in different parts of the United States. For example, in Arizona, the fire season starts in April or May and extends to September or October. Because fire towers are in remote locations, lookouts may have to travel long distances to work their shifts. Some lookouts live and work at their fire towers throughout the fire season.
Lookouts generally work a five-day schedule, which might include weekends and holidays. They work overtime during wildland fires to support the firefighters, and may also work additional hours when the danger for fire is high due to critical fire weather conditions, such as strong winds, extremely dry weather, or lightning storms. Lookouts work alone and have minimal contact with other people.
What Are A Fire Lookout’s Job Requirements?
Fire lookout positions don’t have any particular education requirements beyond a high school diploma or GED.
Most employers want a minimum amount of experience within their industry – whether that’s a shipyard, construction site, security work, oil and gas, or something else. You’ll also need specialized training in fire watch, but you can get this on the job.
Any emergency response training or experience can be helpful when applying for these positions.
General skills requirements include physical strength, stamina, and mobility, as well as being detail-oriented.
Preference may be given to candidates whose application demonstrate skills, abilities and/or experience in the following:
· Perform wildland firefighting tasks.
· Spot forest fires for a natural resources company or agency.
· Provide information to members of the public, supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, radio, in written form or in person.
· Analyze information and evaluate results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
· Observe, receive, and otherwise obtain information from all relevant sources.
· Monitor and review information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
· Read and interpret maps.
· Maintain adequate level of fitness to perform assigned duties.
· Work with little supervision and personal contact.
· Work in high and semi-confined spaces.
Zach Urness has been an outdoors writer, photographer and videographer in Oregon for 11 years. He is the author of the book “Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon” and “Hiking Southern Oregon.” He can be reached at zurness@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.Facebook Twitter Email