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Incident Name:  Miami Mountain Lookout, Sierra National Forest, near Nipinnawassee, CA
Date: 10/26/2006
Personnel: Josiah "Joe" Knowles, Jr.
Age: 74
Agency/Organization:  US Forest Service
Position: Fire Lookout, Sierra National Forest

Summary: Josiah Knowles, Jr. was a lookout volunteer with the Sierra National Forest Detection Program at Miami Lookout on the Bass Lake Ranger District. On October 26, 2006, Joe left his residence to work at Miami Lookout at 8:00 a.m.. At 8:55 he went in service at the lookout and went out of service with Sierra Dispatch at 5:56 p.m.. When he had not yet returned home after 8:00 p.m., Volunteer Coordinator Rich Camp was called. Rich and his partner drove up to Miami Lookout very slowly and looked over the road edge the whole way up to make sure Joe had not driven off the edge. Upon arrival at the lookout, Knowles was noticed near the base of the tower next to his vehicle, slumped over onto the rear drivers side tire. He had sustained severe head trauma and was deceased. Joe was alone at the time; it is known that there was a fall that involved a head injury, but the cause of the fall has not been determined.

Joe Knowles

Joe Knowles in his lookout Joe Knowles in his lookout

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  • Press Release

    Volunteer Lookout Found Dead

    Joe Knowles, Sierra NF, California

    Josiah Knowles, Jr. was a lookout volunteer with the Sierra National Forest Detection Program at Miami Lookout on the Bass Lake Ranger District. On October 26, 2006, Joe left his residence to work at Miami Lookout at 8:00 a.m.. At 8:55 he went in service at the lookout and went out of service with Sierra Dispatch at 5:56 p.m.. When he had not yet returned home after 8:00 p.m., Volunteer Coordinator Rich Camp was called. Rich and his partner drove up to Miami Lookout very slowly and looked over the road edge the whole way up to make sure Joe had not driven off the edge. Upon arrival at the lookout, Knowles was noticed near the base of the tower next to his vehicle, slumped over onto the rear drivers side tire. He had sustained severe head trauma and was deceased. Joe was alone at the time; it is known that there was a fall that involved a head injury, but the cause of the fall has not been determined. An agency investigation is under way.

    Joe was from Ahwahnee and was one of 25 volunteers with the fire detection program. He was known by his very distinct voice - when he had a smoke report you knew he had a smoke. He worked for ten years as a volunteer at Miami, Deadwood and Shuteye Lookouts and was a member of the Forest Fire Lookout Association. He had also volunteered the visitors center in Oakhurst and was a member of the Ham Radio club. In his 70's, Joe is survived by his two sons, Jon and Nick, and his daughter, Jenny.

    Miami Lookout is located on the Mariposa, Madera County line, one mile west of California State Highway 49 in the foothills of the west-central Sierra Nevada Mountains. At an elevation of 4,327 feet, it overlooks the towns of Oakhurst, Ahwahnee, Nipinnawasee, Coarsegold, Raymond and Baily Flats in Madera County, and Ponderosa Basin, Usona, Bootjack, Lush Meadows, Mariposa, and Oakgrove in Mariposa County, the southwestern peaks of Yosenite National Park, and the northwestern peaks of the Sierra National Forest.

    Miami has been staffed by volunteers since 1995, when cutbacks forced the discontinuance of pain staffing. The volunteers work in cooperation with the Sierra NF and the CDF, and are responsible for watching an area of about 150 square miles. The lookout is staffed during the fire season beginning about May 15th of each year until October or November when enough precipitation has fallen to end the fire system

    Miami Lookout was originally built in 1934. The lookout is a 20-foot "H-hraced" steel non-battered tower with I-beam corner posts. Atop the tower is a C-3 14 x 14 foot wooden hip-roofed cab with the door in the center of wall, with 2-pane windows, and originally had shutter outriggers on top.

  • News Release : USDA Forest Service : Sierra National Forest : [FS Shield]

    Bass Lake Ranger District, 57003 Road 225, North Fork, CA 93643

    Dave Hagen, Fire Prevention Officer, 559-877-2218

    IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    October 27, 2006

    FIRE LOOKOUT FATALITY

    NORTH FORK. "The Forest Service family lost a valued member Thursday when Josiah "Joe" Knowles, Jr., was fatally injured after a fall at the Miami Fire Detection Lookout," said Bass Lake District Ranger David Martin. "Joe was from Ahwahnee and had worked ten years as a volunteer in our Fire Detection Programs at Miami and Shuteye Lookouts." In his 70's, Joe is survived by his two sons and a daughter. He was a member of the Ham Radio Club and also had volunteered at the visitor center in Oakhurst.

    "The entire Forest Service family is saddened and sends our sincere condolences to Joe's family, friends and colleagues," said Martin.

    Fire detection has been an integral part of wildfire prevention since it began with the formation of the forest reserves at the turn of the 20th Century. "Even with all the technical advancements with satellites and computers, we still are very much in need of the human eye to assist with early detection of wildfires, said Martin. "There are currently 27 volunteers working in the Volunteer Fire Detection program."

    Miami Fire Lookout sits atop the 4,327 foot Miami Mountain about two miles West of State Highway 49 just North of Nipinnawassee. The 360 degree view from Miami takes in the ever-increasing urban interface with the Forest. Receiving no financial compensation for their work, volunteers know the value of their work and enjoy the solitude found at the top of a mountain. # # #

  • US Social Security Death Index: Josiah N Knowles

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  • Forest Service Volunteer falls at lookout, dies

    Volunteer served for 10 years

    11/1/2006 | Online article Sierra Star

    A U.S. Forest Service volunteer was fatally injured after a fall at the Miami Fire Detection Lookout, outside of Nipinnawasee on Thursday. Josiah "Joe" Knowles, Jr. of Ahwahnee had worked as a volunteer in the fire detection programs at Miami, Deadwood and Shuteye lookouts for 10 years. In his 70's, Knowles was one of 25 volunteers with the fire detection program. Knowles was alone at the time of his fall; the incident is still under investigation.

    "We know there was a fall that involved a head injury," said Mark Lemon of the U.S. Forest Service. "We're unsure of what caused the fall though." Lemon stated it is common for lookout volunteers to be stationed alone. "I've worked here for 34 years and I've never seen anything like this happen," said Trudy Tucker, public affairs specialist at the Bass Lake Ranger Station in North Fork. "Our federal investigators were here on Friday. We should know more soon." Lemon said details are expected to be released later this week.

    Knowles was also a volunteer at the visitor center in Oakhurst and was a member of the Ham Radio Club. He is survived by his two sons, Jon and Nick, and his daughter, Jenny.

    "The entire Forest Service family is saddened and sends our condolences to Joe's family, friends and colleagues," said Bass Lake District Ranger David Martin.

    The Miami Fire Lookout is located on top of Miami Mountain, at a 4,327-foot elevation, two miles off of Highway 49, north of Nipinnawasee. The station was established in 1934 by the U.S. Forest Service and overlooks Eastern Madera and Mariposa Counties, the south western peaks of Yosemite National Park and the north western peaks of the Sierra National Forest. Miami Lookout is now staffed by local volunteers since cutbacks forced the discontinuance of paid staffing in 1995. Volunteers are responsible for watching an area of approximately 150 square miles. Fire detection has been a vital aspect of wildfire prevention since the inception of the forest reserves more than a century ago. "Even with all the technical advancements with satellites and computers, we are still very much in need of the human eye to assist with early detection of wildfires," Martin said.

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Contributors to this article: Greg Hickman, RJM

 

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