Alum documents fire lookouts

Brian Nuno '11
Fighting wildfires starts with just one glimpse of smoke from a high point of view.

Locally, those high points of view are offered by the San Bernardino Fire lookout towers, the subject of a guide book by firefighter and Redlands alumnus Brian Nuño ’11. 

Nuño authored “San Bernardino National Forest Fire Lookouts”—a photographic travel guide to the lookout towers—as his community service project during his time at Redlands. Nuño began work on the book in the summer following his junior year and printed it during the spring of 2011 through the online print-on-demand publisher Blurb.

Director of Community Service Learning Tony Mueller recommended Nuño photograph his community service project, so Nuño chose to document the lookouts for the travel guide, and shot the photographs in the book during his travels to all seven towers.

“The towers are antiques, but they’re still very much in use,” said Nuño, who works for the U.S. Forest Service at the San Bernardino Airtanker Base. “I wanted to document these lookouts and get to know more about firefighting in the process.” He used his Nikon D-40 camera and its 18–55mm lens to capture the vistas as seen from the towers.

Volunteers man the towers, he said, taking an active role in the defense of the forest, watching for lightning strikes and using the tower’s “Fire Finder” radial map device to communicate the coordinates of burns to first responder teams. Volunteers also educate visitors about the history of the towers, the ecology of the forest and how to spot fires.

“The Forest Service has never seen a book like this. They were absolutely ecstatic when I brought in it,” Nuño said. “This book is better than handing someone a pamphlet … it’s actually a keepsake and I hope people treat it like one.”

“San Bernardino National Forest Fire Lookouts” can be purchased at All of the book’s proceeds will go to funding the reconstruction of the Cajon Mountain Lookout Tower which was destroyed in a wildfire several years ago.

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