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From the Files of the Lassen Historical Society: Donald Landon and Landon Lookout

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

Landon Lookout in 1988 courtesy of the Cal-Fire Museum

by Susan Couso

In 1910, a huge 3,000,000 acre fire devastated parts of Idaho, Washington and Montana. The U.S. Government responded to this disaster by assigning the problem to the newly-formed U.S. Forest Service who then began their work to defend the country from wildfires.

In 1933, as a measure to deter the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt implemented the Civilian Conservation Corps to provide work for young men and to help with government projects throughout the nation.

The USFS quickly realized that this new work force could be vital to their efforts, and the CCC was put to work on a massive program of construction projects.

Out of this program, fire lookouts were built across the country. In California alone, some 250 lookouts were constructed between 1933 and 1942 and the fire lookout system proved to be a major benefit to providing essential information for fire detection, and the lookouts, staffed mainly by volunteers, flourished.

In 1952 the newly-built Don Landon Lookout was dedicated to a young man who had worked for the California State Division of Forestry in Lassen County. Don Landon served his country in WWII as a Sergeant in the 821st Tank Destroyer Battalion, and was killed in action in August of 1944, near Henri-Chapelle, Belgium. Don Landon received a Purple heart for his bravery. He is buried in Belgium.

From the Nevada State Journal September 18, 1952:
“Landon Lookout, one of the State Division of Forestry’s latest lookout stations in northeastern California, was dedicated Sunday to Donald A. Landon, former member of the forestry service who was killed in action in Europe in 1944.

“Approximately 50-persons attended the ceremonies, conducted by the Veterans of Foreign wars and the American Legion. The Rev. Hartzell E. Buckner of the Susanville Methodist Church delivered the invocation and benediction.

“John Callahan, deputy state forester from the Redding office, presented a short dedication speech in which he praised the personal character of Landon as a credit to the forestry service.

“Callahan stated that it was fitting that the new tower, which is symbolic of the alertness of the forestry service, should be dedicated to a former ranger whose alertness, initiative, and interest was of service to one of the nation’s most valuable natural resources. Following the ceremonies, the public was invited to inspect the new tower which was placed under construction two years ago and completed earlier this year.”

The fire lookouts in our country are slowly disappearing. Many have been turned into small overnight rentals where visitors can experience the spectacular views and see what life was like for lookout personnel. In Lassen County, several fire lookouts remain, serving a vital purpose, but will undoubtedly soon ‘take a back seat’ to new technology.

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