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Pechuck Fire Lookout Site Oregon/Washington BLM



Pechuck Fire Lookout Site

Archaeological site

This Fire Protection Facility was staffed from 1918/1919 until 1964. A growing concern for fire protection in forested areas in the early 20th century resulted in the construction of lookouts and the placement of fire location devices on high sites with wide views throughout the northwest.

The Clackamas-Marion Fire Protection Agency (C-MFPA) was the local agency responsible for fire detection and suppression in the two county area including the Molalla River watershed.

Located on the Table Rock Trail, the original lookout was built in 1918 by the predecessors of the Clackamas-Marion Fire Protection Agency (C-MFPA) on top of 4338 foot elevation Pechuck.

It consisted only of a rangefinder (most likely an early version of the Osborne Firefinder) set upon a four log post stand. A small cabin of wood planks with a shake roof was built nearby to provide living quarters for personnel. Until 1932, the only access to the lookout site was by way of the Table Rock Trail through what is now Table Rock Wilderness.

The first people to staff the lookout were Mr. And Mrs. Bill Elkins, a middle-aged couple from Molalla, who reportedly worked at Pechuck in either 1918 or 1919.

Open-air firefinders were common at detection points prior to the advent of standardized lookout houses which incorporated the firefinder within the structure.

Benefits of mounting the firefinder within a lookout structure included improved visibility for the observer and more stability for the instrument. Hence, accuracy was improved in plotting the location of smokes sighted from the lookout house. Lightning rods and ground-wires also protected both the observer and the instrument during electrical storms.

The present two-story cupola Pechuck Lookout structure was built in 1932 for the C-MFPA. Construction of a new lookout also began on Lookout Mountain. To hasten the construction efforts, a wider, more direct and less steep route was needed to the lookout.

As a result, the South Fork Trail, developed to reach both Pechuck and Lookout Mountain lookout was developed as an easier alternative for work-related travel in the area.

Pechuck Lookout was built by John Oblack, a Czechoslovakian from Molalla with help from a veteran stone mason-name unknown-from Portland.

Materials for the lookout were packed in on mule to the site by Ken Engles and another person (name unknown), both from Molalla.

At the time, the road ended seven miles from the site at the Bee Ranch. Materials were brought up the Table Rock-Rooster Rock Trail. The stone was cut from indigenous material nearby rather than packed in.

Pechuck Fire Lookout is a cupola-type groundhouse built primarily of native stone. The lower story served as the living quarters for the observer(s).

There are also windows on all sides of the lower story which had protective steel shutters. The windows fold out and up and are held open by guy wires anchored to the roof above the windows.

Entry to the lookout is provided by a single windowless door of heavy-duty construction which opens on the eastern side of the structure. A brick chimney extends through the lower story roof.

The stove pipe, a hand-hewn table and an iron bed frame remain downstairs.

Open shelves are positioned inside the structure above the level of the windows. Four 6" x 6" beams in the ceiling of the living quarters are hand-hewn. The floor of the lookout is a concrete slab. The groundhouse is 12' x 12' x 7'.

Pechuck's upper story, made of wood with a shingled roof, was the lookout tower. The upper story has windows on all four sides providing a 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape.

These windows slide down into the walls to open.

The walls are of tongue and groove construction standing three feet high. Access to the cupola is by way of a ladder from inside the lower living quarters through a trap-door hole in the floor of the cupola.

The cupola measures 7.5' x 7.5' x 9. The entire structure stands about 16 feet tall.

Pechuck Lookout's style of stone and wood construction is highly distinctive. It is one of the few remaining lookouts of this vintage and is the only stone lookout known in northwest Oregon.

The lookout station atop Pechuck is unique. No other stone cupola-type lookouts are known to exist in Oregon or Washington.

The Lookout most closely resembles the "D-6" cupola-type lookout houses developed by the U.S. Forest Service. A proto-type station of this type was built on Mt. Hood by Lige Coalman in 1915. In 1929, cupola type lookouts began to be superceded by the "L-4" design, a gable-roofed structure which had no cupola and housed the firefinder within the lookout cabin proper. By the mid-1930's cupola style lookouts were no longer being built.

Pechuck was last staffed in 1964 by Kay Geyman of Salem.

Increased use of aircraft for fire detection and an improved road system for faster access to forest fires reduced the need for detection points which were staffed on a 24-hour-a day basis during the annual fire season. Lookout use began to decline and Pechuck was no longer needed as part of a fire suppression system.

Restoration of Pechuck began in1991 and was completed in 1995 with help from numerous volunteers. Regular maintenance is undertaken each year.

Improvement of surrounding trails provides hikers and horse back riders with continued access.

A volunteer organization, the Pechuck Look Outs, based in Molalla has partnered with BLM to assist in management of the lookout which is open to the public for visitation and overnight use.

The establishment of the National Historic Lookout Register (NHLR) took place in 1990 and the World Lookout Register in 1992.

The first NHLR listing was Sand Mountain on the Willamette National Forest followed by Pechuck as US#02. Pechuck is the premeditated birthplace of the National Historic Lookout Register.