Tuesday, January 31, 2023

A day at the tower

 The path winding between granite and a yellow tingle tree on the way to the fire tower. It's morning and white-breasted robins hop from karri hazel limbs ahead, to lead me away from their chicks.

At the summit, I wipe sweat from my face (it's a decent climb), wind up the shutters and check out the view. A few small blue smokes rising in columns from the last burn. That red device hanging over the gunsight is amazing for weather recording - something we do every hour.

There's some odd critters up here, probably due to the altitude. People from anywhere other than Western Australia will tell me that "this isn't a mountain, it's just a hill!" but being closer to the sky than most country around here, there is definitely a change in habitat. A girl named this stick insect Frank. Frank has two other mates, just hanging in the tower.

... some kind of lady bird I never see anywhere but here, roosting on Quokka poo near the stairs.

... a king skink always gives me a fright on the steps!

... and a beautiful lacewing ...

And then there are the eagles, Waarlitch or Wedgetail Eagles. I always know they are on their way when the other birds down by the river start screeching. "Waarlitch! Warlitch!"

If you hang around in one place for long enough, you see some amazing stuff. It's a waiting game ... bushfires, critters and rainbows.

Bit pleased with myself here in the photo above. The bushfire is out on the horizon. I called it in at 50 kilometres from the fire tower and got it within 100 metres, after its position was confirmed by the spotter pilot. Judging distance is difficult out in the flatlands to the north, with few landmarks such as hills, paddocks or mobile phone towers.

I listen. Sometimes it's classical music on the FM channel, sometimes podcasts or audio books. I listen to the spotter pilots from other districts on the UHF or turn on Spotify to find Johnny Cash. Reading makes my eyes tired and takes them from where they should be - the horizon. 

We are only allowed to work four days straight and I know why. After four days my eyes are sore and my brain is fried. Mostly, my tower partner tries to avoid four straight days on the roster. Up here too long, we begin to make mistakes and feel a bit crazy. It's a weird combination of being on high alert all day and bored at the same time. A day off to reset and rest is important, especially when both of us work other roles during the fire season.

So, after four days, it's a blessing to head down to the beach at my house and watch the swans fly east in the evening, sit in the yellow sand with the hound and watch the sunset.



  1. The panoramic views from your tower are amazing. You do very important work in the tower. That said, I can see how 4 days of isolation and being on watch is very tiring. Your views at your home are very lovely and restorative.

  2. It's sort of like unusual. I don't get to see views like that except in books! And I actually know you. Well sort of you know what I mean.

    1. I do know what you mean Rachel :) Views are unusual around here because we live in the forest - but climb a decent hill and it's laid out like a tableau.

  3. Replies
    1. It's an interesting job. I spoke to a couple from BC today who live in similar conditions on the other side of the world. Fire towers were gradually automated, until fire authorities began to realise that hotspot satellite tech had no match for a pair of eyes. They work well together of course, but I've seen satellite hotspots out to sea or a km or so from where the fire is.

    2. That's interesting. A.I. is catching up though. When I was a lonely and morose teenager I wanted to be a lighthouse keeper, but then I discovered that it meant sharing with at least one other. Now they are all automated so I will never be one.