Home » Research » Wildfire Detection » People » Woman on Watch

27-year old Janet Propp worked as a tower observer in the Yukon, and loved it. Excerpts from a July 31, 1978 article from the Northern Times follow.

Despite the fact that 27-year old Janet Propp often doesn’t see a soul for weeks on end, she doesn’t consider her job a lonely one.

Tower Observer Janet Propp

She’s been the ‘towerman’ at the Yukon Lands and Forest Service fire lookout tower near Carmacks for the past two and a half months, and far from being lonely, she says she likes the sense of freedom, the knowledge that in her lofty perch, she is her own boss. « I look down from my tower and I feel like I own the world, » she says.

Her first responsibility as towerman is to watch for and record any smoke from the surrounding forest. This Janet does by regularly surveying the forest, sometimes with the naked eye, sometimes with binoculars or a telescope. If she spots smoke, she calculates its location with an azimuth, or fire-finder…………She radios the information to the Yukon Lands & Forests Service office at Carmacks.

Her tower is a two-storey building, roughly 12 feet square, which was installed in its present location in the early 60s after being carried up by plane, piece by piece. Recently another room, also 12’x12’ has been added to the lower level to give Janet a bit of living space. There’s a ladder between the two floors she’s constantly scooting up and down.

A tiny shack houses her small generator which is powerful enough to keep two batteries charged. The batteries provide power to run her radios. She has no other form of electricity, but finds she doesn’t really need it anyway – the daylight hours are long enough. When she does want light after dark she uses a candle.

Visits by friends are few, because the road to the tower is long and treacherous. It takes a good 45 minutes with a four-wheel drive to reach the tower, and when it rains, the road becomes a virtual swamp.

But if she misses the socializing in town there’s always the radio. She talks at night, since that is the time when the fires die down and the wind stops blowing and the radio is relatively free for conversation.

And would she recommend the job to anyone else?

"You can’t be the type who wants to be in on everything," she warns. "If you think about what you’re missing in town, you’ll be miserable. But it’s an excellent job if you don’t mind being alone."

Thomson, Nancy. “A Woman on the Watch for Fires” The Northern Times. July 31, 1978.
Photo Credits:
Northern Indian and Affairs [Tower Observer Janet Propp]
Facility Rentals Our Giftshop Northern Nature Trading Bushplane Productions Our Aircraft Ontario Provincial Air Service
pinterest Facebook Twitter