A little piece of Picatinny history was brought back to life on September 5. For the first time in nearly 30 years, the Green Pond Mountain Lookout Tower lit up the night sky.
Built in 1942 as a fire and security sentry site, Tower 291 is a 60-foot tall Aeromotor LS-40 model, which stands 1,240' above sea level. It is the only tower in New Jersey with a catwalk surrounding the cab, a feature found mainly on western "live-in" towers.
The tower provided housing and protection for a person known as a fire lookout whose duty it was to search for wildfires in the wilderness. Perched high on the mountain top, this manned tower provided an excellent viewpoint for smoke columns and flames as the site overlooked the fuse and explosive assembly area operated by the U.S. Army at Picatinny. If a fire was located, the lookout would report the fire location, size and other crucial details to the local dispatch. The report would trigger a series subsequent actions to further investigate and ultimately combat the fire.
In 1994, the cab (or small room) was restored by the volunteer organization, the National Historic Lookout Register. Although the tower is on its preservation page (http://nhlr.org/lookouts/us/nj/green-pond-mountain-lookout/), it has slowly fallen back into disrepair.
This year, the Picatinny Arsenal Fire and Emergency Services Division took part in the annual "Lighting of the Fire Towers" -- an event that began several years ago in the Adirondack and Catskills Mountains to draw attention to the historic preservation efforts of these structures.
“The event began for the community to look to the horizon and see there was a fire tower watching over and protecting them and to pay homage to the observers that worked in them decades ago,” said Capt. John Grivalsky of Picatinny Arsenal Fire & Emergency Services Fire Station # 2.
During the event, a lantern is lit inside the cab of the fire tower from approximately 9-9:30 p.m., making the tower visible from miles away.
“I guess in a way Tower 291 has always had that draw for me, and is representative of our facility; providing, protecting and defending,” Grivalsky added.
More recently, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service reached out to the Picatinny fire department to potentially utilize the tower for its intended purpose as a fire detection site. Although scheduled for demolition, fire department leaders hope that the "Green Pond Mountain Lookout Tower" can be saved for its historic value.
The Green Pond Mountain Lookout Tower lighting is planned as an annual event, according to Picatinny Arsenal Garrison Commander, Lt. Col. Adam Woytowich. The lighting will be done in coordination with the New York State Chapter of the Forest Fire Lookout Association and will be held annually on Labor Day weekend.
“We've already received positive confirmation that next year, two of the six North Jersey New Jersey Forest Fire Service Lookout Towers will be joining us,” Grivalsky said of the annual event.