Mount Tam ‘Lookout’ Gives Firefighters A Head Start On High Fire Danger

MOUNT TAMALPAIS (KPIX) — Marin County is one the few places in the Bay Area still using “fire lookouts” on days with high fire danger.

The view from the top of Mount Tamalpais comes with more than three-thousand feet elevation and unparalleled panoramic views. But for Steven Post, it also comes with great responsibility.

“We serve as the eyes of Marin County, a presence to see smoke, as early as possible,” he says.

Once a paid lookout in this same spot 45 years ago, Post now volunteers with Marin Fire. He’s one of about thirty locals trained to spend their days during fire season with eyes on the horizon, looking for signs of fire.

On red flag warning days like Tuesday, they are a critical part of keeping Marin County safe.

“Any second counts when you are talking about homes in the urban interface area,” says Captain Jake Rosebrock of the Marin County Fire Department, Throckmorton Ridge. “If they can get us there any faster it’s super helpful for us and for the public.”

Just to give you an idea of how important the vantage point is, not only can you see all of Marin from the lookout, you can also see that haze from a fire that happened earlier in Oakland.

It’s one of the few remaining lookouts in the Bay Area. The advent of cell phones made most of them obsolete, at the same time the cost of manning them grew too high. But this one, thanks to its volunteers, survived.

“It’s vital for us so we know exactly where to go, what color the smoke is, how fast the fire is moving, and that’s what the lookout can provide us before we even get there,” says Rosebrock.

And because so much of this view is outside cell phone coverage and difficult to access, the tower lookout is the sometimes the only way to get that information.

“Here with a 360 vies, the large population with the watershed to protect, a lookout serves to see trouble at the earliest point.”

For those interested in volunteering for the program this season is closed, but Marin County fire is looking to reopen the program during the fire season in 2018.

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