Keith Simar has made the climb to the Pequot Lakes fire tower many times: Up the steep, winding path to the base of the steel structure rising high above the trees.
He started his career here nearly a half century ago, as a forester with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. It was his job to sit up there, a hundred feet above the ground, scanning the horizon for any sign of smoke.
Decades ago, observation towers like this one, perched on a hill just off Minnesota Hwy. 371, gave foresters a bird's-eye view to spot the telltale smoke of a wildfire. But technology rendered those towers mostly obsolete, and many have disappeared from the landscape. “There’s a lot of history being lost,” Simar said.
Today, foresters use airplanes and drones to spot wildfires, and radios or cell phones to report them.