Living history at Price County Fire Lookout Tower - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Living history at Price County Fire Lookout Tower


Manny Stein remembers climbing a 100 foot tall ladder when he was young.  It leads to the top of the Fifield Fire Lookout Tower in Price County.  And he says it has quite a history.  

"It takes a little guts to go up there you know" he said smiling.

Stein was a wildfire lookout.  Sitting in the seven by seven foot house atop the tower, he recalls watching for wildfires in all kinds of situations.   

"When the lightning storms came in, you sat on a chair with insulated glass on the bottom so when a lightning strike hit the tower it wouldn't electrocute you" Stein said.

Constructed of steel in 1932, it was assumed a lookout was a man's job.  But when World War II broke out that mentality changed.  

That's when Wisconsin's women took charge, keeping watch and protecting the then young forests of Price County and northern Wisconsin.

"When you climbed up that tower in the spring you'd be amazed at the different shades of green there are in the forest" Betty Murnik told Newsline 9. 

Murnik is Manny Stein's sister.  And in the 19040's, became one of the first women to ever serve as a wildfire lookout. 

"Yeah I was up there during thunderstorms.  Snowstorm one time; it was snowing so hard that the geese were flying between me and the ground!  Yeah, it does sound crazy" she said with a chuckle.    

"Wisconsin had hundreds of these towers protecting the forest, so these towers are rather historic" Tom Nicholls said. 

Nicholls is Manny and Betty's friend.  As a tree pathologist, he's also an important reason why this tower is among only a hand full still standing.  Working with the U.S. Forest Service and Fifield Action Committee, he helped get the tower placed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

"We had to protect this tower" Nicholls said.    

And that work continues to strengthen a lifelong friendship of those sharing a love of Price County's forests.

The Fifield Fire Lookout Tower is located on Highway 70 in Price County, approximately five miles east of Fifield.  Traveling east, the driveway is on the left-hand side of the road.  

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