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Dodging decades of demolition: How the Lula fire tower has survived
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Doug Andrews, chief ranger with the Georgia Forestry Commission, stands in front of a fire tower at the Georgia Forestry Commission in Lula on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. The fire tower reaches 100 feet high and is one of the few still in use around Georgia. - photo by Austin Steele

Reaching 100 feet high, the fire tower next to the Georgia Forestry Commission office in Lula is one of few still in use around Georgia.

The 75-year-old looming tower is only occasionally used to locate wildfires — its most regular use is as the host of the commission’s radio antenna, according to Chief Forest Ranger Doug Andrews.

He said the forest rangers only use the tower to pinpoint wildfires when their airplanes are on the ground.

“The planes are usually already in the air” by the time the tower ends up being used, he said. “We have two airplanes circling the district at all times.”

Andrews said the fire tower in Lula was first built in 1944 and since then has kept its title as the only fire tower in Hall County.

Over the years Andrews has found that the fire towers around Georgia have started to deteriorate, and most have been taken down. What used to be open farmland he said is now engulfed with trees.

“One of the reasons we’re doing away with towers is these were erected back when we had zero trees in the area,” he said. “Now the trees are as tall as the fire towers, so views are limited.”

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The fire tower at the Georgia Forestry Commission in Lula stands at 100 feet high on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. “One of the reasons we’re doing away with towers is these were erected back when we had zero trees in the area,” Chief Forest Ranger Doug Andrews said. “Now the trees are as tall as the fire towers, so views are limited.” - photo by Austin Steele

When Andrews joined the Georgia Forestry Commission in the ‘90s, he helped take down the fire towers that were no longer in operation. He said the fire tower in Lula remains only because it became repurposed as a radio tower.

With the maintenance required in keeping up the paint job, steps, flooring and windows, Andrews said the Georgia Forestry Commission had no choice but to dismantle the deserted towers.

He said the closest fire tower in proximity to the Lula location is in Habersham County. Called the Chenocetah Fire Tower, the building is owned by the U.S. Forest Service and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

For more information about the fire tower in Lula contact the Georgia Forestry Commission at 770-869-3641.

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The 75-year-old looming tower is only occasionally used to locate wildfires -- its most regular use is as the host of the commission’s radio antenna. - photo by Austin Steele
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