Appeal tribune. (Silverton, Or.) 1999-current, August 05, 2020, Page 7, Image 7

Below is the OCR text representation for this newspapers page. It is also available as plain text as well as XML.

Structure was the last
of its kind in Three
Sisters Wilderness
Zach Urness
Salem Statesman Journal
The last fire lookout in the Three Sis-
ters Wilderness has burned down, and
it’s still unclear how it happened.
Olallie Mountain Lookout, a sentinel
that’s peered across the forest and trio
of volcanoes since 1932, burned down
sometime last autumn, U.S. Forest Ser-
vice officials said, but it wasn’t discov-
ered until this summer.
A rare “grange hall” style design lo-
cated southeast of Cougar Reservoir,
Olallie had been inactive for decades
and looked a bit rough, but remained
beloved by hikers and historians.
“It was one of the first of its kind, and
one of the very last,” said Don Allen,
president of the Sand Mountain Society.
“The loss of Olallie is a terrible one in
terms of Oregon history.”
The Forest Service is investigating
the cause of the fire, said Darren Cross,
McKenzie River district ranger. He said
there was lightning across the forest in
late September, but the lookout also
could have been torched by a wayward
“It’s really sad and a lost opportunity
to save that history,” Cross said. “We
didn’t hear about it until this spring and
there wasn’t much evidence since the
burn area had been under snow all win-
The lookout sat at 5,592 feet with a
commanding view of the Central Cas-
cade volcanoes and could be reached
via Olallie Mountain Trail.
“It’s an amazing spot to visit because
you can see so much on a clear day:
Mount Hood to Diamond Peak,” said
Cheryl Hill, author of “Fire Lookouts of
Oregon.” “It’s also great because of its
wilderness setting which means you are
not surrounded by a sea of clearcuts like
you are at many other lookout sites in
Olallie narrowly escaped wildfires in
the past and remained standing with
the help of volunteer groups, including
the Sand Mountain Society and the Ob-
sidians, that put in thousands of hours
of work keeping the building upright.
“So many hours were invested in pre-
serving the opportunity to rehabilitate
this great, high-integrity building,” Al-
len said. “It seemed to have a will to live.
It just survived the Olallie Trail Fire of
2017, which burned just about to the
foundation of the lookout and stopped,
as if in reverence for the venerable old
The Three Sisters’ other lookout, Re-
bel, was burned in the Rebel Fire of 2017,
leaving Olallie as the lone survivor until
At their height in the 1930s and 40s,
fire lookouts dotted between 800 to 900
mountain peaks across Oregon. Today,
as technology for spotting smoke has
improved, only around 160 remain, ba-
sically classified into three categories:
active lookouts, rental lookouts and
“ghost” lookouts falling into disrepair.
Olallie and others like it become
ghost lookouts partly because they’re
stuck between two laws: the Wilderness
Act, which discourages human-made
buildings, and the National Historic
Preservation Act, which favors protect-
ing historic structures and sites.
Allen said volunteers were often al-
lowed to maintain historic lookouts in
wilderness areas because they predated
wilderness designation. But that began
to change in 2005 after the environmen-
tal group Wilderness Watch sued the
Forest Service for rebuilding Green
Mountain Lookout in Washington’s Gla-
cier Peak Wilderness. The effect was
Olallie Mountain Lookout is seen after it burned down. The lookout sat at 5,592 feet with a commanding view of the
Central Cascade volcanoes. PHOTO COURTESY OF STEVE JOHNSON
Olallie Mountain Lookout, before it burned down last autumn. The lookout sat at 5,592 feet with a commanding view of the
chilling on restoring other wilderness
lookouts, Allen said. Many were allowed
to deteriorate.
“While heritage professionals argued
for stabilization at a minimum, some
wilderness managers thought any mod-
ern facilities should be eliminated from
wilderness,” Allen said.
Allen proposed rehabilitating Olallie
Mountain Lookout in 2010, when walls
meant to be temporary were added, and
again in 2015.
But additional work stalled and last
time Hill visited, the lookout “was in
pretty bad shape,” she said.
“Nevertheless, it still had a lot of
character, and the visitor log showed
how many people visited and enjoying
coming up there,” she said.
Cross said what to do with Olallie was
an open question when it burned down.
He said rehabilitating it or removing it
and building it else were all on the table.
But the fire, whether nature or hu-
man caused, answered that question for
good. Now, visitors who climb Olallie
Mountain can look out from the same
viewpoint, but without a building that
survived almost 90 years.
Zach Urness has been an outdoors re-
porter, photographer and videographer
in Oregon for 12 years.
Urness is the author of “Best Hikes
with Kids: Oregon” and “Hiking South-
ern Oregon.” He can be reached at zur- or (503)
399-6801. Find him on Twitter at
Man shot, car is
stolen at Silver Falls
State Park trailhead
David Davis
Salem Statesman Journal
A man was shot during a suspected
carjacking at a Silver Falls State Park
trailhead last week.
Troopers and emergency crews were
called to the north trailhead parking lot
for a report of a person who had been
shot after 10 p.m., according to Oregon
State Police.
Billy Gardner, a 23-year-old Portland
man, was taken to Salem Hospital
where he was treated for the gunshot
wound and released.
Following an investigation, officials
say the suspect stole a silver 2016 Ford
Fusion with Oregon license plate 383
MAX and left northbound on Highway
Officials are asking anyone with in-
formation about the incident to call the
Oregon State Police Northern Command
Center at 1-800-442-0776, or *OSP if
you are calling from a mobile phone, and
reference case #SP20-205764.
Oregon State Police was assisted by
the Marion County Sheriff ’s Office, Sil-
verton Police Department, Drakes
Crossing Fire Department, and Wood-
burn Ambulance.
David Davis can be reached at, 503-
399-6897 or follow on Twitter
@DavidDavisSJSupport local journal-
ism by subscribing to the Statesman
Simple Cremation $795
Simple Direct Burial $995
Church Funeral $2965
275 Lancaster Drive SE
(503) 581-6265
8970 SW Tualatin Sherwood Rd
(503) 885-7800
832 NE Broadway
(503) 783-3393
12995 SW Pacifi c Hwy
(503) 783-6869
1433 SE 122nd Ave
(503) 783-6865
16475 SE McLoughlin Blvd
(503) 653-7076
Privately owned cremation facility. A Family Owned Oregon Business.
“Easy Online Arrangements”