Forest Fire Lookout

G. Scott suggests spending solitary time by yourself before committing to a life in a commune by taking the job of a forest fire lookout.
By G. Scott
July/August 1970
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Scott suggests one solution to facing yourself alone before going "back-to-the-land": the job of forest fire lookout.

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Although the back-to-the-land movement means getting away from people and moving in with trees and grass, many potential nature lovers are terrorized by thoughts of the loneliness and isolation which may be experienced. It's a real love-hate relationship. We love nature, but we feel secure in the crowds of the big cities.

Communes are an answer. But if members of a commune are afraid to be alone, I feel this may break up the very commune they want to form.

May I suggest, as one solution to facing yourself alone, the job of forest fire lookout. True, you will be trapped on a mountain with primitive facilities, but you will also know that your time there is limited, and that you are in constant radio communication with other lookouts. You will also be living in the woods during the most pleasant part of the year and you will make a substantial sum of money because you can't spend any while you're there!

Here's how you make it happen: Write the U.S. Forest Service, Washington, D.C. and request a list of all forests which need lookouts. The west coast has the largest need and the office for all west coast forests is in Portland, Oregon. I don't know the exact address but a letter should get to the proper place if you write U.S. Forest Service, Portland, Oregon.

After you get your list of forests, write to each one and request the name of each ranger station and the fire control officer in charge.

Now, fill out the miserable Civil Service Form No. 57 which you can get at your local post office (it's 4 pages!?) and write a personal letter (NOT a carbon copy) to the officer at every station that interests you.

Tell, in the letter, whether or not you have a car (it is not essential, but helps). If you want to bring a mate, say so (they love couples but you'll have to lightly refer to your partner as a wife or husband even if she or he isn't).

Anything personal you can do will help. My mate and I even telephoned a ranger. Tell them you've fought a fire somewhere. I don't know if this is general, but they even asked to see my man's discharge papers from the army.

Then you sit back and wait. If you do all the red tape, you're bound to get several offers! Just don't wait until too late in the season: The deadline for applications is about the end of March or middle of April.

One word of warning: There are hangups. The Forest Service is organized along para-military discipline. Probably they are in favor of the Vietnam War. If you're into trying to change people's heads, though, you'll have a lot of time for rapping and persuading your fellow lookouts. And, if your superiors are distasteful, you'll — at least — be 40 miles away from them!

There are other pluses: As lookouts, we met some mighty nice individuals, tending a forest is an honorable job (although some folks have ulterior motives) and living and working in natural surroundings can bring a person's best qualities to the surface.

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