Cottonwood Pass Fire Station and Lookout
US 1280, CA 124
May 2018 photo of west side of abandoned station and lookout

May 2018 photo of west side of abandoned station and lookout - courtesy of Michael Guerin

Lookout Details

Registry Numbers US 1280, CA 124 (view other lookouts in United States, California)
Date Registered June 5, 2018
Nominated by Michael Guerin
Location Kings County, California
Coordinates N 35° 51.192' W 120° 04.576' (view using Google Maps)
N 35° 51' 12" W 120° 04' 35"
N 35.853201° W 120.076264°
Elevation 1,060 ft (323 m)
Built 1953
Administered by California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection


This building is the only one of its kind. (Vina Helitack, similar in appearance, is a wood frame version of this building.) This combination fire station and lookout is CDF Plan 804, according to notes from a 1991 evaluation by Mark V. Thornton. A 10,000 gallon concrete water storage tank remains. The lookout is known to have been in operation in the early 1980's but is now abandoned and has been partially open to the elements and roosting birds. One former CDF Captain, once stationed there, said they put their bedposts in coffee cans to keep scorpions from climbing. Another former firefighter assigned there said that the on-duty personnel would take turns up in the tower while on (engine) shifts.

Three former CDF firefighters shared these anecdotes about their time at Cottonwood Pass:

David Hosler: I use to sleep outside on the water tank. When the lights went out in the barracks, there were so many crickets it sounded like the cricket tub in a bait shop.

Mike Snyder: I worked there in 1985. Cottonwood had been closed for a couple of years but CDF decided to reopen that summer. It was a busy season so we were gone a lot. When we were there we were on death patrol for removing, snakes, scorpions, rats , mice and crickets!

Marsha Colby: I worked at Cottonwood Pass as a seasonal firefighter during the bicentennial year of 1976. Many years of drought left the grass out there very sparse to say the least. Therefore there were almost no veg fires in our response area. We did go to the propane loading dock fire in Avenal. We did not man the lookout that year and it was shuttered most of the time unless Sanger called us to get a cross on another lookout reading or to verify a report. Weather watching from on top of the water tank was awesome. You could watch the thunderheads form. Water came from Coalinga in a water tender once a week. So we conserved or we might go without. One day late in the season I was in the kitchen and heard a strange noise outside and went out the kitchen door and walked over to about 8 feet from the flag pole. About that time the flag pole got hit by lightning. I hustled back inside and changed shorts. It started raining and about 2 days later I was out of a job. Fond memories of the scorpions and the rest of the desert critters out there.


Change Basemap


Tower in May 2018

Tower in May 2018 - courtesy of Michael Guerin

May 2018 view of exterior

May 2018 view of exterior - courtesy of Michael Guerin

1973 photo of exterior

1973 photo of exterior - courtesy of Danny Paulson

Fire truck in 1973

Fire truck in 1973 - courtesy of Danny Paulson