USA — The Columbia Breaks Fire Interpretive Center at Entiat is in the process of completing its third Forest Service lookout building this spring. It is a unique lookout, moved here last fall from Gifford Pinchot Forest, with outward-slanting windows, and is at ground level, unlike the other two structures.
The organization is made up of volunteers. I stopped by the site Wednesday morning to find it a workday, with Dave Anderson and Wayne Long on hand working at the new lookout. Dave Spies heads the group now.
The idea of a fire interpretive center began 20 years ago with a feasibility report compiled by Nancy Belt of the Entiat Ranger District. The group formed, chose the present site just north of Entiat, and acquired two lookouts from Badger Mountain and Chelan Butte. State funding brought a new office building a couple of years ago.
The new lookout is expected to be the prime center for fire education at the site.
The group has plans for a covered outdoor interpretive shelter to be dedicated to the late Arnie Arneson, a sparkplug of the group. They hope to film a fire lookout in action to show at the center.
Fire lookouts were the mainstay of fire detection for decades, and were active until the 1960s, replaced by aerial and electronic work.
There were dozens of lookouts in Chelan County alone. The only remaining active lookouts in the Wenatchee National Forest are Alpine, on Nason Ridge; Sugarloaf, on the Wenatchee-Entiat divide; and Thorp Mountan, not far from Cle Elum. Okanogan National Forest mans Goat Peak, Bonaparte, and First Butte.
The lookouts originally were tied to ranger stations by telephone wires, and later by radio. And some of them were in fiercely isolated locations such as McGregor Mountain above the Stehekin Valley, or Mount David above the White River. The latter had a famous outhouse built by Magnus Bakke over a 500-foot drop.
An organization of former lookouts, the Forest Fire Lookout Association, helped assemble the new lookout at Entiat. Two June events are being held by the Columbia Breaks group: a cowboy poetry and music evening at the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center on June 3, and a cowgirl band at the Entiat site June 18.