West Virginia Book Festival

If you enjoy West Virginia history and real stories about real people, ask Santa for a copy of  Above the Smoke: A Family Album of Pocahontas County Fire Towers. This engaging album describes a time when the first line of defense against forest fires was dedicated human vigilance. A time when men (and at least one woman) were employed to climb swaying 50 foot towers and walk narrow catwalks looking for smoke in the heavily forested region of Pocahontas County.

The job was essential but not easy. Observers lived alone in the towers for long stretches during the dry season, some times for as long as a month. Equipped with two way radios, they could request the delivery of necessary items from their employer, the U.S. Forest Service. Hearty family members could visit and even spend the night but there was little sleeping room. In good weather, tourist and visitors helped break the monotony by climbing the towers for the view.

The interviews recorded in the album show readers life as it was in Pocahontas County between 1915 until around 1980. They read like well written short stories. The album includes 16 pages of photographs of the people, the towers and the towns.