The Angeles National Forest Fire Lookout Association sends volunteers to mountaintops all over the backcountry. On high fire danger days, these smoke-spotters often stop fires before they become firestorms.
Volunteers watch over U.S. Forest Service land during high-fire danger days.
The Vetter Mountain overlook is right in the middle of the Station Fire burn area in the Angeles National Forest.
The volunteers take a two-hour drive up fire roads to get to this outpost for a dawn-to-dusk shift.
This is a temporary, open-air station that they're using until they can rebuild a new cabin for the volunteers.
Randy Heyn-Lamb has been volunteering as a lookout for six years.
Their only structure that survived the Station Fire is this unlikely wooden picnic area.
The forest is coming back, slowly but surely.
Doni Heyn-Lamb volunteers with her husband. She takes humidity readings every hour or so for USFS fire officials.
The wind monitor is a little more low-tech, but a lot more patriotic.
The Station Fire has visitors down to just a handful this year since the roads are closed. Our NBCLA crew is one of just a couple who have signed the guestbook.
Green shoots are sprouting up after a wet winter following the Station Fire.
Randy spots a little smoke in the distance and calls it in.
They have to have sharp eyes to spot anomalies in the forest.
Mount Wilson's TV towers survived the Station Fire. This is the view from the Vetter Mountain lookout, which evacuated a few days into the firestorm.
A puff of smoke on the horizon raises the alarm in the lookout station.
Doni fills out a fire log as Randy checks the smoke's coordinates.
They write down everything they see for the station's records.
Randy uses an Osborne FireFinder to pinpoint the fire's coordinates.
Volunteers line up the smoke in the FireFinder's crosshairs to determine its exact location in degrees.
Each inch on the Firefinder's ruler equals two miles.
Fire on the horizon is almost impossible to see, but the volunteers have training to recognize it, and determine how heavy the brush is in which it's burning.
The collection box is about as lonely as the mountain this year, with very few visitors.
Randy has sharp eyes and sees smoke, where most people would just see a pretty view.
The forest is safe on their watch.
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