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Congratulations to Ryan Smather. He is the winner in our 25th Week of Orofino History Trivia.

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The answer this week is: Bertha Hill Lookout. Watch Monday for more information about this important tool in wildfire protection.

Originally called Thunder Mountain, Bertha Hill Lookout, was an old hemlock snag with a limb to sit on. The tree was killed in the fire of 1885, but remained standing after the hot fire of 1887. After that it was rather shaky, but served the purpose as a lookout for a time. It was in 1902, that Mable Gray the camp cook for Clearwater Timber Company was asked by manager Theodore Fohl to be the "lookout" and spend time up the hemlock snag watching for fires in the timber. At the time there was a small cruiser and trail development camp at Bertha Saddle. If she spotted a fire, she had a pony she would ride to find the camp workers and send them out to fight it.

In 1905, it was decided that a better arrangement was needed at the location and a new four-legged tower was built about 10 feet from the snag. It was about 14 feet high with a ladder up the side. It had a roof, but no fancy windows. Since that time, other towers have been built and modifications made for the safety and comfort of those who work at the lookout watching for fire.

The present Tower #7, belongs to Clearwater-Timber Protective Association. It was modified with a person catcher in 1966 after the lookout, Maida Talbot, some how fell to her death on the rocks below. There has been one other death at the lookout. Glen Frazier was killed instantly by lightning one day while he and Carl Altmiller were on duty at the tower. Altmiller never did fully recover.

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There is rumor that a ghost roams Bertha Hill, but it does not seem to be the vindictive type. It is more like something of a spirit with no other place to go, as Rusty Eck of C-PTPA describes it from the stories he has heard.

Bertha Hill was named for the topography of the land with its two buttes that reminded college students that worked in the area of a well-endowed woman.

Bertha Hill Lookout stands today as the nation's first and longest running forest fire lookout.

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(Historical materials courtesy of Rusty Eck and excerpts from Fire Lookouts of the Northwest by Ray Kresek)

Photos: Top--Mable Gray being helped up the hemlock snag in a 1902 picture Center--Certification that Bertha Hill is listed on the National Historical Lookout Register Bottom--The Fifth Annual FFLA Western Conference in 1997 at Bertha Hill Lookout (Photos courtesy of Rusty Eck)

Monday: It was the first of its kind.

Tuesday: It was a long way from Orofino but helped protect the town.

Wednesday: It was originally called Thunder Mountain, but renamed after a well endowed woman.

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Window on the Clearwater
P.O. Box 2444
Orofino, ID 83544
Fax: 208-476-3407