Wednesday, 05 October 2022

Konocti Fire Lookout: It must be repaired

The Konocti Fire Lookout on Mount Konocti in Lake County, California. Photo by Chuck Sturges.

Konocti Lookout, on Wright Peak of Mount Konocti is a National Historic Lookout with both California Historical Status and National Status (#US1104, CA107).

It has served Lake County, Colusa County, Sonoma County, Yolo County, Mendocino County and the Sacramento Valley since 1977.

From its scenically and beautifully perched location it overlooks and protects Mendocino National Forest, the Snow Mountain-Berryessa National Monument, Native American tribal lands and almost every beautiful Lake County location in between.

Why does it need to be repaired? And what happened to Konocti?

In 2015, after a long time unoccupied and almost abandoned, Forest Fire Lookout Association (http://ffla.org) contacted the agency responsible for Konocti Fire Lookout and proposed opening the Fire Lookout and Staffing the lookout with volunteers, at “no cost” for personnel. The agency accepted and “Konocti Chapter” of Forest Fire Lookout Association was born (http://ffla-ccwr.org).

In 2015, after many years of what seemed normal at the time, fire season in Lake County and surrounding counties changed drastically.

In 2015, wildfire came to Lake County. We lost four citizens that year, and too many houses to count. Tragic and devastating. Cobb Mountain and Hidden Valley Lake areas were scorched and will never be the same, ever. Neither will Lake County citizens.

Since that time in 2015, Lake County has burned over 60% and the wildfire threat seems to be commonplace now. Everywhere you look, you see scorched earth, burned homes and reminders of what the new normal is, every fire season. Every fire season (June through November) we see fire apparatus from all over California, and even some from out of state responding with lights and sirens to a fire in lake county.

Konocti Fire Lookout is perched in the middle of Lake County with the best view for smoke checks and wildfires. It is manned during high fire danger periods, and even after lightning storms like we experienced in 2020.

Yes, there is satellite imagery, cameras that cost Pacific Gas and Electric Co. thousands to install, and this year even drones in some areas. Although the technologies have increased, the human element cannot be removed or ignored. Someone, a human, has to look at cameras, look at satellite imagery, and operate drones. Humans cannot be replaced, now or never. This is the new big argument.

In 2019, Konocti Fire Lookout volunteers were greeted by a busload of Lake County residents who were transported to the lookout in a Lake County bus. It was a small group, and nobody knows who the visitors were exactly. The lookout volunteers, as always, were happy to greet the visitors and show them the beautiful lookout and talk about what their duties are and were.

The visitors were greeted and instructed that only a few visitors were allowed into the lookout at a time. Some of the visitors did not understand the restrictions but all complied. This extended the time the visitors were rotated in and out of the fire lookout. This is because it is so beautiful looking over Lake County, from inside the lookout, no one wants to hurry through the awe inspiring views. But, someone on that bus that day did not like the wait.

In October 2019, the Konocti Chapter of the Forest Fire Lookout Association was staffing the Konocti Fire Lookout when California state engineers arrived, unannounced, to inspect the fire lookout’s structural integrity. After the inspection, the Konocti volunteers were suddenly asked to vacate the lookout, as it was structurally unsound and unsafe. This ended the fire lookout season for Konocti Fire lookout.

It ended the use of the Konocti Fire Lookout forever, or until it was repaired. And there is “no repair date.”

Since that day in October 2019, we have performed our duties as forest fire lookouts from the top of Mount Konocti. From the ground, there is not a 360-degree view. There is little protection from the elements but the volunteers are flexible and still enjoy the view and are committed to protecting Lake County from further destruction from wildfire.

Before that fateful day in October 2019 when the engineers arrived, the Konocti volunteers would have as many as “three” first reports of wildfire a season. Last year, even after we were working from the mountaintop, we had one significant “first report” in the Clearlake Oaks area of Lake County.

What has Forest Fire Lookout done to repair Konocti Fire Lookout?

Not knowing the exact repair costs, but knowing it will be more than requested we have started a GoFundMe account to repair Konocti Fire Lookout. It will cost a lot to sit down with an engineering firm and have them tell us what the possible estimate is, from the state engineers report. A copy of the report can be provided if requested.

The Forest Fire Lookout Association has written letters to Assemblywoman Cecelia Aguiar-Curry, Sen. Mike McGuire and Congressman Mike Thompson. Sen. McGuire’s office is the only one that has responded.

In the letters, FFLA, as we are known,actually begged for assistance. Sen. McGuire’s office responded and told us that recently Cal Fire received “deferred maintenance funding” which Sen. McGuire's office supported and signed. FFLA and Konocti Lookout were told, “Cal Fire received more than enough money to repair Konocti Fire Lookout.” Sen. McGuire’s office told FFLA that they will follow up with Cal Fire regarding the repairs. To our knowledge, there are no current plans to repair Konocti Fire Lookout.

FFLA is asking Lake County citizens and anyone knowing the value of Konocti Fire Lookout, and the job the volunteer fire lookouts are doing, to please assist us telling our leaders that it needs to be repaired, and soon. Contact Sen. McGuire’s office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Cal Fire Sonoma Lake Napa Unit Shana Jones’ office at 1199 Big Tree Road, St. Helena, CA 94574, telephone 707- 967-1400.

If you would like to know more about becoming a Konocti Fire Lookout volunteer or know more about our interest in preserving this fire essential, national and California State Historical landmark, please contact me at Christopher Rivera, Director, California Pacific Region, Forest Fire Lookout Association, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Donations can be made to Konocti Repairs at http://gofundme.com/f/konocti-lookout-repairs.

We are also asking the Lake County community to become a Konocti Lookout volunteer. We are a community based volunteer organization accepting anyone who would like to learn the art and skill of being a forest fire lookout. We will train you to do all aspects of “smoke watching” from the top of Wright Peak.

Konocti Chapter of Forest Fire Lookout Association is a 501(c) (3) non profit. For more information you can call Jim Adams at 707-245-3771, Chris Rivera at 707-239-6824, or go to http://ffla-ccwr.org or http://ffla.org.

Longtime Lake County, California, resident Chris Rivera is director of the Forest Fire Lookout Association, California-Pacific Region.

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