Rush Creek Point Fire Lookout is an abandoned fire lookout overlooking the Rush, Cabin, and Big Creek drainages in central Idaho’s Payette National Forest, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as part of the Forest Service’s fire suppression efforts.
The Rush Creek Point Fire Lookout is a small structure built in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps to monitor fires from its vantage point straddled between the Big Creek and Rush Creek drainages. Fire lookouts were necessary due to the Forest Service’s 10:00 AM policy, which announced that forest fires should be put out by 10:00 AM on the day after they occurred. To make this feasible, the CCC built fire lookouts while the Forest Service strung telephone lines throughout the national forests for communication with the outside world. The surplus of labor during the Great Depression made this development possible with the government-sponsored work-relief programs of the New Deal, such as the CCC.
The aggressive fire-fighting policy of the Forest Service often proved impracticable in Idaho. Forest Service employee Elers Koch noted in his 1935 article “The Passing of the Lolo Trail,” the failures of the firefighters to contain the conflagrations even under ideal conditions, suggesting that perhaps some of this difficulty originated from the buildup of fuels as a result of earlier fire suppression. Despite these early concerns, the Forest Service maintained the 10:00 AM policy until 1977, after which fires were addressed with individualized plans often including alternatives to suppression.
The 1980 Central Idaho Wilderness Act further reduced the necessity of the Rush Creek Point Fire Lookout by defining this portion of the Payette National Forest as part of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area. This limited the fire suppression activities that the Forest Service was legally allowed to conduct, since in wilderness areas the use of motorized tools is prohibited. Furthermore, suppressing fire at all in wilderness is only questionably legal, since the act calls for wilderness “untrammeled” by man. Abandoned, the Rush Creek Point Fire Lookout has been out of service for many years, a relic of the Forest Service’s aggressive fire suppression.