Department of Environmental Protection

New Jersey Forest Fire Service

NJ Forest Fire Service Logo


When a wildfire occurs, the first step in the process is a timely and accurate reporting of the fire's location. To accomplish this, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service maintains a system of 21 look out towers at strategic locations throughout the state. At least one tower in each division is operated whenever the woods are dry enough to burn and all towers are staffed during the months of March, April, May, October and November.

Look out towers continue to be effective and observers detect one half of all wildfires reported. The other half are called in by the general public, aircraft pilots and forest fire patrols.

In addition, forest fire observers calculate and report fire danger ratings that are used to alert the general public and determine staffing levels for the Forest Fire Service's fire suppression operations.

Fire observers are in constant communication with each other about weather and fuel conditions in the forests around them. They use dispatch radios to maintain communication.

Weather conditions affect fire behavior, so measurements are routinely taken on temperature, wind speed and relative humidity using devices like a Bell Weather Kit.

After spotting a fire the attendant uses a tool called an Osborne Fire Finder or an Alidade. This is an indicator or sighting apparatus on a plane table, used in angular measurement. A topographic surveying and mapping instrument with a telescope and graduated vertical circle is used to obtain the radial and distance to a suspected fire. From these measurements he will call in a "Smoke Report." By lining up this machine with the fire they can calculate the direction and bearing of the fire.

Each fire tower has a large map on one wall with every fire tower in the division marked on it. When a tower sports a fire, that tower uses its map to figure out where the fire is located. Using sighting from other tower, a Fire Observer can then triangulate to place a fire on the map and measure its distance from known locations on the ground. This information is used to direct response of firefighters on the ground.

Bearfort Station

US 244, New Jersey 6
Newark Watershed (Pequannock Watershed)
Passaic County, New Jersey
Elevation: 1331 feet

The original lookout on Bearfort Mountain -- circa 1880 -- was a wooden platform or tree lookout. The Newark, NJ Watershed Department built an iron frame tower in 1909, and replaced with a 50’ wooden tower, which burned in 1932. A tree platform was used until the current 68’ steel tower was built in 1934. It is a McClintock-Marshall design and may have been supplied by Aermotor under contract. Bearfort remains an active lookout with over a century of service.

Budd Lake Station

US 246, New Jersey 8
Morris County, New Jersey
Elevation: 1182 feet

Originally known in 1905 as the “95 Mile Tree Lookout” because of its location at Mile 95 of the old state turnpike on the west shore of New Jersey’s largest fresh water lake, Budd Lake has served as a lookout point for 92 years. The current 60’ steel Aermotor tower with 7’ x 7’ metal cab was constructed in 1924. It is the only lookout in the state equipped with an Osborne Fire Finder.

Catfish Station

US 247, New Jersey 9
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Warren County, New Jersey
Elevation: 1555 feet

Located on the Appalachian Trail in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Catfish Fire Tower was constructed in 1922, replacing a wooden tower. In 1993 the 7’ x 7’ cab was rebuilt on this 60’ Aermotor LS-40 tower.

Culvers Station

US 44, New Jersey 1
Stokes State Forest
Sussex County, New Jersey
Elevation: 1509 feet

Culvers Lookout was originally established in 1908 and the site was first known as Normanook Fire Tower. In 1918, a steel tower was constructed and was staffed by a state observer. The present Aermotor 47' tower, with a 7'x7' cab, was erected in 1933. The lookout is located in the Appalachian Trail corridor in Stokes State Forest.

Greystone Station

US 553, New Jersey 12
Union Hill
Denville, New Jersey
Elevation: 909 feet

Greystone Station fire tower was built by the NJ Forest Fire Service in 1937. The top 47’ and 7’x7’ metal cab was moved from the Edison fire tower (1920s), with an extended base provided by the Aermotor Co. increasing the height of the rebuilt tower to 92’ It is the tallest fire tower in northern New Jersey.

Milton Station

US 563, New Jersey 16
Morris County Park
Morris County, New Jersey
Elevation: 1341 feet

Back in 1937 the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) constructed the Milton Station Fire Tower under the Woodlands Protective Expansion Project. The 80’ International Derrick tower with 7’x7’ metal cab is on Morris County park property. The Milton Station Fire Tower is the key tower in high value urban and wildand interface within the northern New Jersey region. It can see every other tower of the seven towers in the Division, as well as the Sterling Fire Tower, the last remaining active lookout tower in New York.

Ramapo Station

US 45, New Jersey 2
Ramapo Mountain State Forest
Passaic County, New Jersey
Elevation: 1011 feet

Ramapo Lookout was previously known as the Wind-beam Lookout (1920) and has been moved twice in its history. It has occupied its present location since 1983. The LS-40 Aermotor, with 7'x7' cab, is located on the Ramapo Mountain State Forest just south of the New York state line.

Apple Pie Hill Station

US 564, New Jersey 17
Tabernacle Township.
Burlington County, New Jersey
Elevation: 179 feet

Originally there was a cupola lookout on Apple Pie Hill overlooking the NJ Pinelands Reserve, built about 1912. In 1950 the present 60’ Aermotor tower with 7’x7’ metal cab was moved from Big Hill where it first stood in 1938. Like most NJ towers, it is painted red and white.

Bass River Station

US 243, New Jersey 5
Bass River State Forest
Burlington County, New Jersey
Elevation: 47 feet

Bass River Fire Tower is located on the Bass River State Forest just off the Garden State Parkway in southern New Jersey. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) constructed it in 1937, reportedly in just 11 days. The 80 steel tower with 7’ x 7’ metal cab is a McClintock-Marshall style but has an Aermotor Co. nameplate. It is in active service.

Batsto Mansion House Station

US 79, New Jersey 3
Batsto Village State Historic Site
New Jersey
Elevation: 72 feet

When it comes to fancy living quarters, New Jersey’s Batsto Manor House Lookout takes the prize. When the NJ Forest Fire Service was locating lookout sites in the flammable Pine Barrens, the imposing mansion of the iron master at the old Batsto Iron Works caught their eye. Actually, the widow’s walk on top of the manor house had been used to look for fires during dry spells for many years and may be one of the oldest detection sites in the nation. The 9’x9' enclosed wooden cab was constructed in 1919 and used for fire detection until 1924 when the Batsto Fire Tower was constructed nearby.

Batsto Station

US 565, New Jersey 18
Wharton State Forest
Burlington County, New Jersey
Elevation: 70 feet'

The first lookout in this area was a rooftop observation floor on the Batsto iron maker’s mansion, which may have been used for fire detection as early at the 1840’s. In 1919 a 10’x10’ wooden cab was added at the lookout went into regular service (NHLR US#79, NJ# 3). It was soon recognized that more height was needed, and the 60’ Basto Station Fire Tower went into service in 1924. It was later raised again to a full 100’ feet and is in active service.

Cedar Bridge Station

US 248, New Jersey 10
Ocean County, New Jersey
Elevation: 204 feet

The original Cedar Bridge Fire Tower was built seven miles south of the present location in 1924. It was moved three times, coming to this site -- south of Lakehurst Naval Air Station -- in 1987. The 100’ International Derrick steel tower with 7’x7’ metal cab has an unusual wooden gable roof. It is still in active service.

Jamesburg Station

US 554, New Jersey 13
Thompson Park
Jamesburg, New Jersey
Elevation: 48 feet

Originally erected as the Old Bridge fire tower in 1942 under the wartime security program, this LS-42 60’ Aermotor tower may even have an as yet unconfirmed earlier life dating to 1924. In 1963 it was moved to its present location as the NJFFS Jamesburg Station fire tower and is in active service. In is one of four Aermotor cabs known to have an unusual small windowpane design.

Lakewood Station

US 555, New Jersey 14
Lakewood, New Jersey
Elevation: 136 feet

Five employees of Jersey Central Power and Light Company built the Lakewood Station fire tower in 1944 for $360! The construction of the 80’ Aermotor tower with 7’x7’ metal cab was to be done “after normal working hours” in two weeks. In 1974 this NJFFS tower was moved 300’ because of a property dispute and remains active. During World War II the tower was used to listen to German U-boat communications in the Atlantic Ocean 12 miles to the east.

Lebanon Station

US 556, New Jersey 15
Brendan Byrne State Forest
New Jersey

Lebanon Station fire tower is one of New Jersey’s oldest. The NJFFS 80’ Aermotor tower with 7’x7’ metal cab replaced the old Four Mile tower overlooking the fire-prone “pinelands.” In recent years a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) era pine plantation grew to 80’ tall, restricting the view. A timely timber harvest restored the vista and supplied lumber for a variety of state project.

Medford Station

US 568, New Jersey 21
Piper's Corner
Burlington County, New Jersey
Elevation: 141 feet

Plans for the Medford Station Fire Tower were set in 1940, but construction was not accomplished until 1948 after World War II. The 100’ Aermotor tower with 7’x7’ metal cab is in active service.

Belleplain Station

US 245, New Jersey 7
Belleplain State Forest
Cape May County, New Jersey
Elevation: 56 feet

Constructed on the Belleplain State Forest in 1921 as a 60’ tower, Belleplain Fire Tower was soon overtaken by surrounding trees. In the 1930s, an additional 40’ section was added. The 100’ Aermotor steel tower with 7’ x 7’ metal cab is in active service.

Blue Anchor Station

US 566, New Jersey 19
Camden County, New Jersey
Elevation: 152 feet

The original fire tower at Blue Anchor Station was an LS-47 Aermotor. In 1932 it was moved to the Stokes State Forest as the Culver tower. The current McKlintock Marshall 86’ steel tower with 7’x7’ metal cab was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1932.

Dias Creek Station

US 567, New Jersey 20
Cape May County, New Jersey
Elevation: 13 feet

The southernmost tower in NJ is Dias Creek Station located on Cape May. At 15’ above sea level it is the lowest elevation lookout in the state. The 60’ Aermotor with 7’x7’ metal cab was built in 1944 and raised to 100’ in 1970. It has recently been put back into service due to the need for prompt fire detection in this rapidly developing area.


US 249, New Jersey 11
Atlantic County, New Jersey
Elevation: 75 feet

Located just west of Atlantic City, NJ, McKeetown Fire Tower was first a wooden and iron braced tower built by the coast resort water department in 1917. The state built this 80’ Aermotor tower with 7’x7’ metal cab in 1924. In 1946 a 20’ addition was clamped to the top, raising the tower to its current 100’.


US 569, New Jersey 22
Cumberland County, New Jersey
Elevation: 83 feet

The Millville Station Fire Tower was built in 1922 replacing an earlier structure of local design. The 60’ Aermotor tower with 7’x7’ metal cab was later raised to 100’. Renovated under the “extended use” program, it is in active service.


US 570, New Jersey 23
Atlantic County, New Jersey
Elevation: 106 feet

Originally constructed in 1924 near the old Mizpah Hotel, Mizpah Station Fire Tower was moved in 1959 one mile up the road to its present site. The original 60’ Aermotor tower with 7’x7’ metal cab was raised to 100’ at this time. Recently restored, it is the key tower of the southern region of the Pinelands.