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Historic fire tower taken down at Tattnall County Forestry Commission
Crews disassemble old fire tower at the Georgia Forestry Commission in Reidsville.
Crews disassemble old fire tower at the Georgia Forestry Commission in Reidsville.

The historic fire tower, which may have been constructed in the late 1930s on the western outskirts of Reidsville and used for around 80 years as a system of fire towers to protect against wildfires in the central area of Tattnall County, was moved for the third time last week. Last Tuesday, crews showed up to dismantle the tower and move it to a new home on the Old River Road just west of the Tattnall

County Fire Station 16. It will no longer be utilized in forest fire prevention but rather as an observation tower on the Heart of Dixie Outdoors hunting plantation.

Records of the initial construction of the tower could not be located, but for many years the tower was located just southwest of Reidsville on Hwy. 147. It stood about 100 yards from the Sylvester Smith house and just northeast of County Road 260 about 40 yards north of 147.

The fire tower was moved from the 147 location in the mid to late 50s when the Georgia Forestry Commission was constructed on Hwy. 57 near the current site of Boneyard Barbecue. M.D. Waters and Bill H. Durrence were the two permanent employees of the Forestry Commission in Tattnall at that time. This writer worked with M.D. and Bill briefly in the summer of 1968 after returning from Vietnam. I

learned a lot about bulldozers and firefighting in a short time, and I spent a lot of time in the fire tower scanning the horizons and trying to stay awake. Barbara Register, my future wife, volunteered to bring my lunch one day and climbed the tower. She was shaking so hard at the top that the tower was vibrating.

From that point forward, I came down when she brought my lunch, as she informed me that would be her last time climbing those steps. Working at the Georgia Forestry Commission was a good experience; Bill and MD were true professionals. Both spent time in the Okefenokee Swamp fighting the big fire in 1954-55.

Ted Tatum, my 1962 Reidsville High School classmate and quarterback on the 1960 and 62 Tiger football team, worked at the Forestry Commission for a while in 1966 before taking a job at the Georgia State Prison somewhere around early 1967. MD and Bill bragged about Ted’s ability to operate a bulldozer. He spent some time in the tower, too.

In 1983, the new Forestry Commission building was constructed just off Chandler Avenue about three quarters of a mile northeast of Bubba Kennedy Road, and the fire tower was taken down for the second time and moved to the new location. As technology progressed, the need for fire towers to locate fires diminished and the fire tower has not been in actual service for several years. In its time, however, it was cutting edge technology that could locate fires precisely using inputs from two or more towers. Those towers provided a service that saved uncountable acres of timberland and probably some human lives.