27 Years of Scanning for Smoke and Flames

Since the late 1990's Shan Lewis has been scanning thousands of acres of forest land for smoke and fire in the Fremont-Winema National Forest. (KTVL/Brian Schnee)

For nearly three decades, Shan Lewis has kept his eyes peeled to thousands of acres of U.S. Forest Service Fremont-Winema land.

Lewis spends his summers in solitude at the Dog Mountain Lookout. Since it was built in 1997, Lewis has been the one-and-only lookout.

"If you like your job you've got stick with it, if you don't like it, you've got to get out of it," Lewis said about his consistent summers manning the fire lookout. "I get up in the morning and see Mt. Lassen, Mt. Shasta, Mt. McLoughlin, Mt. Scott and Thielsen."

He welcomes the occasional visitor, enjoys the conversation and remembers his most memorable fire spot.

"I was right here," Lewis said pointing into the ground. "Barry Point. That previous day we had a major thunderstorm come through, the first person to get to it was Rob, 8203 and it was about an acre, all the sudden it just took off; the next day they got me out of here."

Lewis was taken to the Drake Peak Lookout where he was able to watch the fire from afar. He received conflicting reports that the tower was gone, but it survived.

The Barry Point Fire burned 92,977 acres in Oregon and California. It was sparked from a lightning storm and was initially spotted by Lewis from the Dog Mountain Lookout.

"You get excited, you want the storms form before anybody else and by the middle of the afternoon, 'boom' something happens." Lewis described the buildup to a potential fire spot. As he demonstrated on the Osborne Firefinder, Lewis knows nearly the entire landscape surround his lookout.

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As he spends months in solitude, Lewis has developed the luxuries to make his summer more comfortable with Direct-TV, satellite radio and his prized coffeemaker.

In 2018, Lewis spotted six fires. With early season lightning strikes in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, he spotted nearly ten in just the beginning of the fire season alone.

There are numerous fire lookouts and guard stations on Fremont-Winema National Forest that are available for public recreation and rental: CLICK HERE.

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