Rehabilitation of 53 Fire Lookout Towers throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania State Forests | Pennsylvania

The Department of General Services (DGS) selected the E2 Project Management LLC (E2PM) Team to provide engineering Services for the preparation of plans, specifications, and cost estimates to restore/demolish fire lookout towers located in various state forest districts across the Commonwealth. The fire tower restoration and site improvement projects will be constructed by DGS but maintained by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) local state forest districts.

The typical fire tower contained a small room at the top, known as the cab where the observer would search for fires. Typically each tower required four‐and‐a‐half tons of steel. The majority of the steel fire towers were erected by 1933.  In most cases, pieces of the towers were dragged up by a horse team since logging horses were in large supply and this was the popular mode of heavy hauling at that time. Predominantly, the first fire towers were fabricated by The Aermotor Company of Chicago, a wind mill manufacturer. Windmill towers were easily adaptable to this new purpose and site conditions. The upper stages, which carried the windmill, were left off and replaced with an enclosed steel cab. This resulted in very small cabs (measuring approximately seven ft. square) compared to other fire towers used in the western United States. As determined by factory blue prints, fire tower height is measured from the top of the concrete footings to the floor of the tower cab. Heights were adjustable by adding standard truss sections to the bottom.

ft1E2PM and its team subcontractor, KMCE, visited all 53 fire tower sites during the months of August and September 2014.  During the site visits, field inspection sheets were completed and photographs were taken of each tower site.  The field notes and photographs were further reviewed and condition reports were prepared for each tower site.

The condition report organizes the inspection observations into the following tower site categories: Tower Foundation, Tower Structural, Tower Surfaces and Paint Condition, Tower Stairs and Landings, Tower Lookout Cab, Site Utilities, Tower Base Compound, and Access Road.  Recommendations and a condition rating were applied (on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 representing good to excellent condition) to each tower based on the inspection results.  An average condition rating was calculated for each tower site, with an overall recommendation to either “Replace” the tower or “Review for Rehabilitation.”  The overall recommendation for a given tower site was determined based on two main factors: 1.) the adequacy of the tower height, and 2.) the average condition rating of the entire tower site.

ft2For this project, E2PM performed the following tasks:

Project Tasks and Submittals
PA DGS Agency Approvals and Submittals
Programming Submittal Review
Schematic Design Submittal & Agency Review
Design Development Review
Interim Construction Documents Review
Construction Documents Review
Project Programming & Data Gathering Phase
Task #1 Initial Data Gathering & Coordination
Task #2 Initial Site Visits and Inspections
Task #3 Initial Site Assessment and Programming Reports
Design Development Phase
Task #4 Structural Analysis New Tower Sites
Task #5 Demolition Design Drawings – Removal Sites
Task #6 Design Drawings New Priority Sites
Task #7 Design Specifications
Task #8 Cost Estimating

ft3Permitting (Environmental, Cultural Resources, and Natural Resources)

Task #9  Construction Permitting
Task #10 Soil Erosion, Sediment Control Permitting

Project Control & Project Management

Task #11 Agency Drawing Reviews & Submittals
Task #12 Project Meetings & Coordination

Specialized Studies for New Towers and or New Access Roads

Task #13 Site Topographic Survey
Task #14 Geotechnical  Investigation & Reports
Task #15 Stream and Wetlands Studies

Construction Support Services

Task #16 Project Coordination & Monthly Progress Meetings
Task #17 Review RFIs/Shop Drawings/Submittals
Task #18 Progress Inspections

Project Highlights

  • Fire Tower Structural Inspections
  • Rehabilitation of Existing 1930  Towers
  • Designing of new 100’ tall towers
  • Foundation Design
  • Design of mile access roads within State Forests
  • Structural & Civil Engineering
  • Architectural
  • Cultural & Natural Resources
  • PNDI Permitting
  • Wetland evaluations
  • Industrial Hygiene
  • Geotechnical Investigations
  • Topographic Surveys
  • Electrical Design
  • Lightning Protection Design
  • Grounding design
  • Construction Inspections
  • Cost Estimating
  • Zoning Permitting
  • Construction Permitting
  • Environmental Permits