navigation bar
DEP Graphic  
Division of Parks and Forestry Graphic
parks home parks home njdep home
Our Organization
Our History
Prescribed Burning
Fire Laws

Look Out Towers

When a wildfire occurs, the first step in the process is a timely and accurate reporting of the fire's location. To accomplish this, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service maintains a system of 21 look out towers at strategic locations throughout the state. At least one tower in each division is operated whenever the woods are dry enough to burn and all towers are staffed during the months of March, April, May, October and November.

Look out towers continue to be effective and observers detect one half of all wildfires reported. The other half are called in by the general public, aircraft pilots and forest fire patrols.

In addition, forest fire observers calculate and report fire danger ratings that are used to alert the general public and determine staffing levels for the Forest Fire Service's fire suppression operations.

Did you know when you visit a fire tower you will receive a free Button!

Division A Fire Towers
Division B Fire Towers
Division C Fire Towers


How Do Fire Towers Find and Report Fires?

Fire observers are in constant communication with each other about weather and fuel conditions in the forests around them. They use dispatch radios to maintain communication.

Weather conditions affect fire behavior, so measurements are routinely taken on temperature, wind speed and relative humidity using devices like a Bell Weather Kit.

After spotting a fire the attendant uses a tool called an Osborne Fire Finder or an Alidade. An indicator or sighting apparatus on a plane table, used in angular measurement. 2. A topographic surveying and mapping instrument with a telescope and graduated vertical circle. to obtain the radial and distance to a suspected fire. From these measurements he will call in a "Smoke Report". By lining up this machine with the fire they can calculate the direction and bearing of the fire.

Each fire tower has a large map on one wall with every fire tower in the division marked on it. When a tower sports a fire, that tower uses its map to figure out where the fire is located. Using sighting from other tower, a Fire Observer can then triangulate to place a fire on the map and measure its distance from known locations on the ground. This information is used to direct response of firefighters on the ground.


Career Information  
Wildfire Danger Levels & Restrictions
Wildfire Preventation & Education
Firewise Communities
Career Information
Publications & Resources
Contact Us


















bottom footer

parks and forestry: find a park | forestry | forest fire | natural lands | education | historic sites| historic preservation
department: njdep home | about dep | index by topic | programs/units | dep online
statewide: njhome | citizen | business | government | services A to Z | departments | search

Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2004
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: September 25, 2008

nj home citizen business government services a to z departments dep home contact dep privacy notice legal statement accessibility statement nj home