The fire tower on Black Mountain, in the Lake George Wild Forest on the lake’s eastern side in Washington County, NY, was constructed in 1916 and has been maintained by New York State Police since 1996 when a 39-foot extension was added. The 80-foot-tall structure supports several antennas, a microwave dish and an aerial beacon, the only one of its kind in New York state.
Black Mountain is not only the highest peak in the Lake George watershed, its radio tower provides coverage to two different State Police troops. Dispatchers at Troop G headquarters in Latham use Black Mountain to communicate with troopers in Warren and Washington counties. In Troop B, state police dispatches alongside Essex County 9-1-1 from a joint facility at the county’s emergency communication center in Lewis, and Black Mountain provides radio coverage to a portion of Essex County.
State police maintain a network of radio tower sites in each of the 10 geographic troops across New York. They’re connected to Public Safety Answering Points where troopers and civilian communication specialists handle requests for routine and emergency police response from the public, as well as other law enforcement agencies.
According to the New York State Police, the system is primarily used by state police, but other state, local and federal agencies are granted permission to use these frequencies to communicate when necessary.
“This system also provides a statewide radio frequency used by many state agencies while responding to disasters. On a routine basis, these sites are used for dispatching state police to 9-1-1 calls, for troopers to call for assistance from other police or other emergency service agencies, and to coordinate police responses, rescues and other emergency operations,” a spokeswoman for the NY State Police said.
When repairs are needed, Black Mountain’s somewhat steep, narrow trail is too difficult to navigate by foot, so helicopters carry workers and equipment to the summit. The same is true for a tower on Cathead Mountain near Benson in remote Hamilton County.
The state police Aviation Unit is composed of 15 helicopters based across the state in Albany, Saranac Lake, Newburgh and Rochester, with two or three persons assigned to each crew. Depending on each helicopter’s
type and configuration, they’re used for a variety of tasks and missions including radio tower re-supply and repairs; transporting specialty units such as K9, Underwater Recovery and Special Operations Response teams; hoist rescues; DEC duties like fish stocking and bear baiting; Medevac transports; search and rescue; and transporting the governor.
Black Mountain’s fire tower, one of 25 in the Adirondacks, is fenced in and may not be climbed because of the sensitive equipment attached to it. But views from the summit are extremely rewarding. Hikers look directly across Lake George to the Tongue Mountain Range. The panorama encompasses everything from the Adirondack High Peaks to northern Vermont.
The Glens Falls-Saratoga chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club created a “Fire Tower Challenge,” in part, to encourage hikers to visit summits other than the over-used High Peaks. Those who reach 18 of 25 tower summits in the Adirondacks and all five in the Catskills are rewarded with a colorful patch.
Photo: The Black Mountain Fire Tower on Lake George.