Martis Peak Lookout opens |

Martis Peak Lookout opens

Sierra Sun file photoMartis Peak Lookout

The Martis Peak Fire Lookout opened Tuesday and will be completely manned by volunteers this summer because of funding cuts.

Despite the money problems, lookouts continue to be an important part of fire prevention, said Lance Noxon, division chief of the Truckee and Sierraville Districts of Tahoe National Forest.

“The lookouts are critical during a storm because they can look into areas that aircraft may not be able to fly,” Noxon said.

Budget issues have made staffing difficult, however.

“Due to lack of funding we’ve struggled the last few years,” said Doug Rinella, battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention.

But that hasn’t delayed opening significantly, Rinella said.

“Because of heavy and late snow pack, we didn’t have to open earlier,” he said.

The lookout usually opens between July 1 and 15, Rinella said.

“Typically it’s a summer season dependent on the winter,” Noxon said. “We have to wait for the snow to melt.”

The lookout is a cooperative effort run by multiple organizations.

“Martis Peak was a Forest Service lookout, but because of the area it looked over we turned it over to CDF,” said Ann Westling, public affairs officer with the Tahoe National Forest.

The station is owned by the Forest Service and this year operated by CDF. In past years Northstar Fire Department has also contributed.

“Northstar in the past has been involved, this year they are not involved, but we expect them to be involved again in the next few years,” said Rinella.

“Volunteers will come from our Volunteer In Prevention, or VIP program,” said Rinella.

For those interested in volunteering, there are a few steps to undertake before being perched atop Martis Peak. An average day in the lookout lasts from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“Volunteers will go through one to two days of training, then they are put to the test in the lookout,” Rinella said.

There is a fire finder ” a combination of map and compass ” in the center of the lookout that allows spotters to figure out the coordinates of a fire, Westling said describing work in a fire lookout.

“We have seven day a week coverage for July and August,” Rinella said, but the CDF is still looking for more volunteers. If you would like to volunteer, contact Captain Dean Levonian at (530) 582-9471.

Want a room with a view? The retired Calpine Fire Lookout is available for rent in the Sierraville District of Tahoe National Forest. Built in 1934 buy the Civilian Conservation Corps, it was active until 1975. The building is now divided into a ground floor storage room, a middle sleeping room, and the observation cab on top.

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