In a virtual meeting Friday, Dec. 11, interested individuals laid out plans for possible kiosk displays at the Paul M. Thiede Fire Tower Park off County State Aid Highway 11 in Pequot Lakes.

Eleven participants from various fields contributed to the discussion: Crow Wing County Land Services Director Gary Griffin, Crow Wing County Environmental Services Supervisor Ryan Simonson, County Commissioner Bill Brecken, former Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Forester Curt Cogan, interpretive naturalist Jim Cummings, former DNR Forester Keith Simar, Minnesota DNR Rural Fire Program Coordinator Tim Oland, DNR Forester Tom Strack, Brainerd Fire Chief Tim Holmes, Crosslake Fire Chief Chip Lohmiller and Backus Area DNR Forestry Supervisor Curt Westerman.

The topic of discussion was largely focused on the contents of kiosks in the park surrounding the fire tower. There will be five kiosks, each with three panels, meaning the group had 15 panels to consider. They were offered the option of making each panel focus on a different topic, or having each kiosk focus on a different topic.

"We're going to have a half circle built around the back side of the shelter with five of those kiosks spaced out so you can walk around in a half circle and be able to view all the information," said Simonson.

For some examples, Simonson suggested they could do one panel per decade for the last 150 years of history, if there was enough history, or they could list information about fires in the 1890s, though he opened the floor to any other ideas the group might have.

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Simar suggested topics could include the history of fire prevention such as the Firewise program, burning permits, fuel reduction and local fires such as the bypass fire in 2000, the 1958 Pequot Lakes fire and the 2007 Ham Lake fire.

Lohmiller agreed with Simar's suggestions. Cogan suggested a kiosk could be dedicated to just the fire tower system itself.


"One idea was maybe putting up a display of where the old fire towers were located around the country and how they worked as far as locating a fire."

— former Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Forester, Curt Cogan


"One idea was maybe putting up a display of where the old fire towers were located around the country and how they worked as far as locating a fire," Cogan said. "Another idea is maybe just listing some of the district forester names who manned the site over the years."

Cogan also mentioned the possibility of using one of the panels to tell the story of a bear owned by the local police chief that wandered onto the steps of the fire tower and caused a fright for the forester scheduled on watch that day. Cogan also suggested displaying the history of the ranger station, which used to be located on site but was moved into town where it later was converted to a bank. He said a kiosk could tell the history of the fire tower's adoption by the Forest Fire Association into the National Historic Lookout Registry.

Westerman agreed with Simar that the Firewise program was worthy of being included.

"There may even be enough material for a whole three-panel kiosk," Westerman said.

Westerman also suggested a panel could be dedicated to information about wildfires, including past local wildfires or statistics about wildfires and their causes.

"The vast majority of what we have are human causes," he said.

Cogan said the museum could have a display set up with a standard issue radio rigged to play a message about the fire tower history whenever viewers activate a button.

Another suggestion was made that the kiosk could include information on the involvement of local fire crews in fighting wildfires. Records might be available to show how many wildfires occurred in the area over the years. The group agreed they could look into finding an existing fire prevention museum for inspiration.

Simonson said that drafts of the ideas may be available in January or mid-February for discussion, at which time more meetings might be possible.

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.