Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Catfish Fire Tower (NJ)

Anyone who has hiked on the Appalachian Trail (AT) has probably walked by the Catfish Fire Tower. For those of you who live in or visit northern New Jersey and are interested in hiking the AT to the Catfish Fire Tower, it is not a long hike going south on the AT from the parking area on State Highway 602 about a 15 minute drive from Blairstown NJ. There is also a nice loop hike you can take where you will walk back to the parking area on the AT you will walk by the fire tower, the New York New Jersey Trail Conference has a description of this loop hike with auto directions that may be found here. I have not done this loop trail in several years, but this was a regular hike when I was younger with younger knees. I'd recommend it. 

It is also visible from the air, and since I know that it is there and where it is, it isn't too hard for me to find from the air as long as I am paying attention. I have seen this fire tower on many of the flights I have taken with my pilot friends when we flew up the Appalachian Ridge from the Delaware Water Gap.

Just this morning, I found a nice short article from New Jersey Monthly on Bob Wollf of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service who is the current fire observer at the Catfish Fire Tower.  Here is an excerpt where he describes part of a typical day at the fire tower:
Wolff begins his daily eight-hour shift at about 10 am, when the temperature increases, the wind picks up and humidity drops. Settling in, he switches on the radio and reports to his base in nearby Andover. “Wolff operator is signing on, Channel 7- KYD- 797,” he calls in. 
And so the fire watch begins. In New Jersey, a fire observer’s job isn’t just detecting fires, but also dispatching aircraft, ground units and personnel. Once they are in action, the fire observer orchestrates the entire drama. 
Wolff listens for the wind and observes the tops of the trees to see if they are bending. He watches to see how quickly the clouds are moving, another indicator of the wind. Weather can be brutal and fast to change along the ridge top. On this morning, visibility is limited and the breeze is light, but I can feel the tower sway.

As I write this, the article from the May 2016 New Jersey Monthly may be found here. It is a short read, and I learned something about the work of a fire observer. I don't know how long this article will be freely available online.

Here are a couple of short videos about the Catfish Fire Tower.

Direct link to video

Direct link to video

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