Majestic views, solitude, and quiet, heroic vigilance—the seven fire lookouts of the San Bernardino National Forest capture a romantic part of California’s past. The Southern California Mountains Foundation proudly oversees their preservation.
The earliest known fire lookout was built approximately 2,000 years ago on Mount Masada, west of the Dead Sea in present day Israel. King Herod’s army used it to protect against his enemies who were setting fires in Israel. The first known fire lookout in the United States was built on Red Mountain near Donner Summit in 1876. The Southern Pacific Railroad used it to watch for train fires.
Over the next century, the prevalence of fire lookouts followed the ebbs and flows of the nation. Improved building standards facilitated the construction of hundreds of lookouts, 600 in California alone, but growth and urbanization introduced aircraft and technology that made them nearly obsolete. Most have been lost to fire, vandalism, and removal.