I have a wispy childhood memory of visiting an old fire tower, standing beside its base and craning my neck backwards so I could see up to the very top. Also floating in that memory-cloud are images of people climbing the tower with me, stuck at the bottom, afraid. Like Alex in the novel, I don’t like heights. But I do like fire towers.
Fire towers are part of Ontario’s history. The first towers were built in the early 1900’s. They were made of wood and rose 35-40 feet high. Over the years as the surrounding trees grew, the trees eclipsed the fire spotters’ view making those early towers obsolete. After WW1 they built bigger, mostly steel towers that were 80-90 feet tall.
“As the 1960’s progressed the towers were in use less and less as aerial fire spotting and fire fighting crews took over. The government decided that they didn’t want any lawsuits on their hands in case careless citizens climbed the unmanned towers and were injured in the process. The decision then went through to have many destroyed. This was done by either placing TNT charges at the base footings to blow them down, or by forest ranger crews who took them apart piece by piece. The odd one was pulled over by truck and left to decay on the sides of mountains.”(from http://ontarioftl.bravehost.com/towermen.html)
I took some liberties with the fire tower in The Realm. I’ve made the tower near the Black’s cottage 30 meters high, from the 1920s and made entirely of wood. In real life a tower like that would have been torn down years ago. To explain this unusual scenario, I’ve created a legal battle in The Realm between the government who wants to tear the tower down and the residents of The Sound who want to preserve the tower for it’s historic value. While both sides argue their case in the courts, an injunction has been issued keeping the tower in place.
In 2012 I visited my sister in Haliburton. She took me to visit two nearby towers. Check out the photographs below (you can enlarge any photo or view them all in a slideshow by clicking on any individual image) or on Pinterest.