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Wed Aug 11, 2021, 08:37 AM

The guardian of Colorado's Front Range

At the summit of Devil's Head, the highest point in the state of Colorado's Rampart Range in Pike National Forest, Ashley Farinacci-Silfies stood in her lookout tower, gripping a pair of binoculars: "That could be a fire," she said, looking intently into the distance. Shortly afterwards, she realised it was only dust, likely from a dirt bike, mimicking the smoky wisp of a new fire. "Luckily, not this time."

Named for its jagged peak, Devil's Head soars 9,748ft into the sky in the Rampart Range, part of Colorado's Front Range that makes up the easternmost edge of the Rocky Mountains. The mountain offers stunning vistas that extend east towards Kansas, west to the Continental Divide, north to Wyoming and south to Pike's Peak, a popular "fourteener" mountaineering parlance meaning a mountain over 14,000ft. To preserve the forest's beauty, fire management is crucial.

Employed by the US Forest Service, Farinacci-Silfies is the last remaining fire lookout in Colorado's Front Range, and the Devil's Head Lookout tower is one of only a handful of fire towers in the US that still maintain seasonal operations. Her job, which she has been doing for two seasons, has largely been replaced by technology, such as 360-degree cameras, drones and aircraft equipped with heat sensors used to detect new fire starts. But, according to Farinacci-Silfies, "Technology can't replace me." She points out that forest service teams appreciate the flexibility offered only by humans; our ability to synthesise information and respond to teams on the ground is something that "drones can't do".

Farinacci-Silfies's job as a fire lookout requires her to spend six months of the year living in a remote log cabin accessible only on foot via the Devil's Head trail, a 1.25-mile hike covering 900ft of elevation. However, much of her time is spent in the nearby fire lookout tower, perched atop the terminus of the Devil's Head trail, one of the Denver area's most popular.

Farinacci-Silfies appreciates the novelty of her work, marvelling at the beauty of her surroundings. "Every hour the sun changes, illuminating something different that I haven't seen before."

https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20210809-the-guardian-of-colorados-front-range
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When I was in college I knew a guy who worked summers in a fire tower in Montana. I didn't realize there were so few left.

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Reply The guardian of Colorado's Front Range (Original post)
Jilly_in_VA Aug 2021 OP
Rorey Aug 2021 #1
CrispyQ Aug 2021 #2
Jilly_in_VA Aug 2021 #3
CrispyQ Aug 2021 #5
Bo Zarts Aug 2021 #7
CrispyQ Aug 2021 #8
Wingus Dingus Aug 2021 #4
Bo Zarts Aug 2021 #6

Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Wed Aug 11, 2021, 08:57 AM

1. As a proud Coloradan, thanks for posting this

I love my state.

About that Hayman fire, I was so furious when I heard how it started. Someone who knew Terry Barton personally said she was a very sweet woman. I think those who lost property and loved ones might beg to differ.

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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Wed Aug 11, 2021, 09:14 AM

2. Great article!

Native Coloradoan here. My best friend in college was from Wisconsin. After two years at CU, she transferred to CSU and switched her major to forestry, and said it was the best decision she ever made.

Thanks for posting!

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Response to CrispyQ (Reply #2)

Wed Aug 11, 2021, 11:31 AM

3. Forestry, hmm?

My grandson just started college in WV with the broad major of environmental science. He says he wants a job where he won't be penned up indoors all the time. Maybe I'll suggest forestry to him.

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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Reply #3)

Wed Aug 11, 2021, 11:36 AM

5. There's a DUer who posts amazing photos from mountain fire posts he's stationed at.

DemoTex, I think is his user name. You can probably find some of his posts in the Photography forum. He often includes snippets of life on the mountaintop.

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Response to CrispyQ (Reply #5)

Tue Aug 17, 2021, 12:34 PM

7. DemoTex is now Bo Zarts.

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Response to Bo Zarts (Reply #7)

Tue Aug 17, 2021, 01:50 PM

8. Thanks for the update!

Your photos are beautiful!

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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Wed Aug 11, 2021, 11:33 AM

4. I have not yet been to Devil's Head, now I'm curious to get up to

that area soon--nice article.

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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Tue Aug 17, 2021, 11:44 AM

6. Ashley is a good friend of mine.

And she is an A++ fire lookout! Since her season starts a litte earlier and usually lasts a little longer than mine, I'm hoping to drop in at Devil's Head for a visit.

Ironically, we were both closed down by snow last Labor Day and we passed on The Devil's Highway (I-80) in Wyoming; she headed west to cover some California fires, and me headed east from Idaho to the Carolinas.

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