Work set for fire tower

>Renovations scheduled before end of the year

MILFORD – Milford’s Federal Hill fire tower is expected to receive signif­icant renovations before the end of the year. Thom­as Mansfield, an architect for the New Hampshire Department of Economic Resources and Develop­ment, said the scheduled project includes replac­ing the tower’s building, reinforcement of the structural steel supports to better withstand strong winds, concrete founda­tion repair, installation of new stair treads, guard rails and painting of the tower steel superstruc­ture.

The state-owned tower, built in 1911, is one of 16 in New Hampshire work­ing in conjunction with each other, as well as with aircraft spotters and ground-based resources, to protect forest lands and more developed areas around the state.

Work has delayed some­what as the state negoti­ates with U.S. Cellular, which has equipment in­stalled on the tower. The equipment needs to be removed before work can commence and could start anytime after a deal is reached.

The project has a No­vember completion date, said Mansfield.

"If we start soon we can do that. If we wait another month, all bets are off," he added.

The project, paid for from the state’s general fund, will cost about $84,000. The work will be performed by J.P. Mac- Donald Services, LLC, of Massachusetts.

Part of the project, re­moval of the cab, will re­quire workers to disman­tle and lower it by hand to the ground below. The cab is a cabin-like struc­ture at the top where the fire spotter and related equipment are housed, at the top of a steel stand.

The cab houses an Osborne Firefinder, a disc-like device that helps spotters, known as watchmen, pinpoint the source of smoke in the 360-degree view the high perch provides.

Located near Ponemah Hill Road, the Federal Hill tower is the south­ernmost tower in the state and provides a view of the surrounding landscape from 690 feet up. Fire towers in Derry and Effingham recently received renovations, and the structure in Paw­tuckaway State Park in Nottingham is currently undergoing similar work.

Mansfield called the towers "iconic struc­tures" and the state’s division of historical re­sources was consulted prior to finalizing plans. The new structure will have a metal, hipstyle roof and will appear much as it does now.

According to data collected for 2015, the state’s division of for­ests and lands lists 90 reported wildland fires that burned 467 fires. The largest wildland fire burned 190 acres.

Don Himsel can be reached at 594- 6590, dhimsel@nashua