Pequot fire tower park memorializes longtime ranger
The Pequot Lakes Area Historical Society and Crow Wing County recently dedicated a kiosk at the base of the Paul M. Thiede Fire Tower in Pequot Lakes in honor of Art Savage, a longtime Minnesota Department of Natural Resources forester who died more than two decades ago.
PEQUOT LAKES — Former fire tower ranger Art Savage spent his life looking out for others — and fires — in the Pequot Lakes area.
The Pequot Lakes Historical Society and Crow Wing County dedicated a kiosk on Sept. 7 at the base of the public Pequot Lakes fire tower as a tribute to Savage, a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources forester.
“It wasn't only meaningful for the family but meaningful for a lot of the community members because they knew and loved Art,” said Mark Jurchen, treasurer and society board member.
Everyone knew the local forest ranger, according to former Echo Journal writers Lou Hoglund and Betty Ryan, for his many years of service to the community.
“He had a simple answer to today’s ozone layer and global warming,” Hoglund and Ryan once wrote. “The concept was simple: Plant some trees, then plant some more trees.”
Savage was the district forester in Pequot Lakes from 1939 to 1971 and spent much of his life at the 100-foot fire tower built in 1935 off of Crow Wing County Highway 11.
“They used to call us ‘rangers.’ I liked that,” Savage was quoted in the Echo Journal article. “Had a romantic ring to it. Sound more exciting than ‘forester,’ doesn’t it?”
His relatives were at the dedication ceremony at the base of the tower that was later christened the Paul M. Thiede Fire Tower Park in honor of the former Crow Wing County commissioner.
“He (Savage) was a wonderful person, he and his wife, from what I've been told,” Jurchen said Saturday, Sept. 17.
Thiede encouraged the county to buy the tower in 2018, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2017, and the 40 acres of land it sits on, from the DNR.
Jurchen said of Savage and the kiosk, “A lot of people just were drawn by his personality — not only that but his dedication to his job and the many years of service that he had there — so that's why they wanted to memorialize something in that particular area around the fire tower.”
Savage began his career in Montana before working in Wisconsin, where he supervised the planting of 3 million trees.
“Next, he was transferred to Pequot at the beautiful salary of $90 a month,” according to the article. “He had six pump tanks, six shovels and two axes. He also had to use his own car to chase fires.”
The Savage family lived at the base of the fire tower from 1939 to 1947 in a three-room cabin. When he relocated from the cabin the following year, his salary was $222 a month.
“He was the actual, pretty much the longtime forest ranger who sat in that tower for hours on end every summer looking for fires and even fought some of those fires himself,” Jurchen said.
Savage estimated he fought 557 fires with 90% of those blazes “human-related” and 5% deliberate arson as the cause.
“He covered more ground than any man I ever saw. He was a hell of a fast cruiser and a good timber estimator,” Walt Stark, a retired DNR forester, was quoted as saying about Savage.
Savage educated people about forest management and wildfire prevention. People can learn more about him at the kiosk. The historical society donated the money for the educational monument.
“He worked with the high school. They had a firefighting club back in those days,” Jurchen said. “He was a fixture in the community and very kind to everyone.”
Savage died more than two decades ago but was active in the community and a well-known musician. He played the fiddle while his wife Bea played piano at local clubs.
“He was the DNR in this community and served the community, again, keeping everyone safe and looking for — especially in those days before all the drones and everything — any potential fires that might have existed in the area,” Jurchen said.