FRYEBURG – A replica fire tower near the Fryeburg Fair’s Natural Resource Center is a new sight this year, but has been in the works for some time.

Mark Mayhew, a Maine forest ranger, said fair President Roy Andrews suggested the tower nine or 10 years ago while he was working in a booth at the fair’s forestry center.

“Every year we talked more about it and he said next year, 2008, we’re going to try to make it happen,” Mayhew said.

The tower was constructed this year and is modeled after a fire tower on Kearsarge Mountain in Bartlett, N.H. The mountain, and its original tower, are visible to the west from the replica.

“It came out perfect. It really did,” Mayhew said.

Mayhew worked as a tower lookout from 1978 to 1983 in New Hampshire and 1983 to 1984 in Maine. New Hampshire originally had about 50 manned towers, a number which has now dropped to 16, while Maine had 107. Currently, only three towers are operated on a volunteer basis in York County.

Mayhew said lookouts would have a certain number of days on and off, and would have their off days canceled if the fire danger rose too high. He said spring was usually the busiest time for spotting fires.

“In one case I had one right on the mountain I was working on,” he said. “The funniest thing is I couldn’t see it at first.”

The blaze was on the side of the mountain, where it was more difficult to spot from the tower. Mayhew later returned the favor by reporting a fire near the other tower.

The 14- by 14-foot cab of the tower is surrounded by a catwalk, and includes a cot, stove, phone, and register of Maine and New Hampshire fire towers. The base of the tower contains a historical display related to nearby towers and the devastating 1947 forest fires that swept the region and other areas of Maine.

Claire Long of the U.S. Forest Service was on hand Friday to tell visitors about the tower. The equipment on display included a packboard with firefighting equipment and an “Indian pump” to be worn on the back, both used to fight forest fires.

One of the more popular items was an Osborne finder, donated by the Forest Service, which a lookout would line up to gauge the distance to smoke. This observation would be triangulated with those of another tower to pinpoint the fire’s location.

In addition to volunteers who have worked in fire towers, interpreters at the fair include members of the Forest Service and White Mountain National Forest.

“It’s a great partnership,” Long said.

Mayhew said the attraction had proven popular with visitors at the fairgrounds.

“The stain’s worn off the stairs,” he said. “It’s gone off really well.”

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