Mountain Fire Lookout Tower to open again

April 28, 2016


Fox 11 News

OCONTO COUNTY — A popular attraction will soon be towering once again over parts of the Northwoods.

The Mountain Fire Lookout Tower, had been closed because of vandalism.

Sparks are flying in the woods near Mountain Wednesday morning. Crews are putting the finishing touches on the tower.

"We replaced all the steps going up. All of the platforms, and then the cab floor, just to make the structure sound," said Greyling Brandt, U.S. Forest Service Assistant Ranger for Recreation and Lands.

Brandt says work started last fall, and picked up again about a week ago. It's 132 steps to the top of the 100-foot steel structure, originally built, 81 years ago. But recently, the lookout sat silent.

The Forest Service closed the area about two years ago after vandals damaged the site. That's what sparked a local campaign to repair, and reopen The Mountain Fire Tower.

"We kind of coordinated this fundraising effort," said Paul Ehrfurth, Oconto County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director.

The Oconto County Economic Development Corportation led the way, raising about $8,000. The U.S. Forest Service provided parts and labor to complete the estimated $20,000 project.
"The Lakewood, Mountain, and Townsend area, they really stepped up, and really helped contribute dollars towards this restoration effort," said Ehrfurth.

Ehrfurth says Tourism in Oconto County is a $14 million a year industry.
"It's a real nice success story for tourism in Northern Wisconsin," he said.
Meanwhile, back at the tower, "They got probably another week or so of work, just finishing up the hand railing," said Brandt.

Brandt says the tower should be done, dedicated and open to the public, on June 10th.
"It's pretty important. You look at the money that was raised. There's a lot of love for this tower," he said. And for those who dare to make the climb, the view at the top is tough to beat.

The Mountain Fire Tower is one of 19 lookouts originally constructed in this part of the National Forest, and is listed on the National Historic Lookout Register.

The only other Forest Service tower still standing is in the Laona area.

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