Legacy of Martis Peak Lookout returns
“The sentinels on the mountain are back!” said Loren Snell, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection division chief.
On Monday, Aug. 4, fire officials from three area agencies turned back time during the rededication of the Martis Peak Lookout to the surrounding communities it serves.
The 44 spectators and fire personnel who made the trip to the newly remodeled lookout, seated at an altitude of 8,665 feet at the south side of Martis Valley, got an opportunity to listen to the famous history the lookout holds. They also took in views from the Sierra Buttes and Lassen in the north, to the Desolation Wilderness to the southwest.
Built in 1914, the lookout sat in disrepair for the last decade. With the cooperative efforts of the U.S. Forest Service, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the Truckee and Northstar fire departments, the lookout was rebuilt and stocked with new equipment and manpower.
The lookout is staffed by CDF during the week, but is still dependent upon volunteer lookout rangers Friday through Sunday.
During the rededication and ribbon cutting, Nelson “Nels” Stone, former area fire control officer, reminisced about personnel that had manned the lookout as far back as the 1920s. The most famous lookout ranger was Frank “Waddles” Maher, who spent 30 summers at the lookout.
Waddles had a crew of chipmunks who swarmed the lookout, then known as “Hotel de Chipmunk.” He named the chipmunks after celebrities and other famous people who would make the trek to the top of the peak to visit the site. Stone said many people who came to the basin or stopped in Truckee would make the visit to Martis Peak to meet the famous “Maher of Martis.”
A cigar roller and circus tumbler by trade, Waddles was best known for the flavor of his bread and “rice Spanish” that he would make regularly for his guests.
Waddles retired in 1940, but left a legacy for the lookout rangers who followed. It is this sense of history that led community firefighters to pool their efforts into restaffing the lookout, Truckee District Ranger Joanne Roubique said.
“Sometimes we race ahead with technology,” Snell said, “It is important to take a step back and this rededication does just that.”
Special thanks from CDF and the U.S. Forest Service went to CDF Fire Capts. Rick Swan and Dean Levonian, firefighters Mark Viscia and Brian Arney and Bob Belden for initiating the re-establishment of the lookout.
Future plans for the lookout include wheelchair accessibility, solar power and full-time staffing, including volunteers.
For information on becoming a weekend volunteer, call 562-1236.
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