Towers protect Lejeune from forest fires

26 Jul 2007 | Cpl. Michael T. Knight

Boom! Pop! Bang! Pow! Zowie! These are the sounds of pyrotechnics Marines use to add a bit of realism to their field training exercises. However, these materials often cause forest fires on base.

This is why towering over all the trees in Camp Lejeune, are two gangly orange and white metal structures called fire towers helping keep the base safe from wild fires.

“The towers are used primarily for early detection of forest fires,” said Daniel Becker, Camp Lejeune’s Forest Protection Program Manager.

There are two towers on base; one is located close to the center of the base near Landing Zone Hawk and the other in Sandy Bay.

North Carolina State employees are perched on these towers during the months of March, April, May, October, November and December, known as the fire danger months, monitoring the 246 square miles of Camp Lejune and the surrounding areas of Onslow County.

“When a tower person spots a smoke stack, on or near base, they use a contraption called a fire finder to get a good estimate of the location of the fire,” said Larry Church, Chief Forestry Technician for Camp Lejeune Forest Protection.

He describes the fire finder as a large compass-like apparatus that sits in the middle of the tower shack.

It identifies the coordinates of the fire by using line of sight against a 360 degree map of the Camp Lejeune area.

Once the tower person gets their reading, it is cross referenced with the other towers’ reading and where the readings cross is reasonably close to the location of the fire, Church explained.

“After the location is identified, base dispatch is notified and the responders get moving,” said Church, who is also one of the first responders.

Tower personnel not only monitor the spontaneous fires, but they also help coordinate the prescribed or control burns of the underbrush done though out the year, said Becke


“There are several benefits to prescribed burning,” said Becker. “It burns off dry brushes and leaves, which act as fuel in forest fires, it burns off the thick shrub that prevents new growth, and relieves the denseness of the forest for Marines to train in.”