Obsolete fire towers find owners

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 26, 2002

LIBERTY &045; Fire towers. Many of us remember climbing one, perhaps on a field trip from school, or maybe on a midnight dare from a friend. Several of these solemn skyboxes still stand in southwest Mississippi, though they became obsolete years ago.

&uot;We have better communication

with the 911 system and cellphones, and we use airplanes more to detect fires now,&uot; said Earl Alford, a 37-year veteran of the state forestry service in Amite County.

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Alford said the state once operated four fire towers in Amite County. &uot;They were built in the late 1950s.

The Amite Tower near Liberty was our main tower, and the others were secondary towers,&uot; said Alford.

The forestry service stopped using the towers about 10 years ago, but manned them on a regular basis before then. Jerry Wroten spotted fires from three of the four towers during his 20-year career with the forestry service.

&uot;We used to work eight-hour days in the towers. We would come down at 5 p.m. and go back up after dark to check for glows,&uot; said Wroten, who used a mapping instrument to take readings on smoke sightings.

Wroten said foresters would then call a second tower and request a similar reading to help pinpoint the exact location of the fire before dispatching a unit to the scene.

Today, air patrols are used during fire season and droughts, and firefighters are dispatched from a district office in Brookhaven.

Two of the four Amite County towers &045; the Amite Tower and the Smithdale Tower &045; are still owned by the state, while two others have been sold to individuals.

Roger and Naomi Campbell of Gloster bought the Berwick Tower on Highway 48 west of here.

&uot;We already owned some land around it, so when it came up for sale we put in a bid for it and got it,&uot; said Naomi Campbell, who has adorned the cab box atop the lookout with a lighted cross and an American flag.

Campbell often climbs the 110-foot tower to enjoy the view.

&uot;You can see the water tanks from Gloster, Centreville and Liberty from up there.

My friends tell me that I have a good deer stand now,&uot; she said.