Talk:Proposed features/fire lookouts

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See existing tag man_made=tower + tower_type=observation

tower:type=observation should be used for fire lookouts which are built as towers, like in some of your example pictures. The key building=* is used for structures which have roofs and walls, usually. An open lattice structure such as would probably be mapped as man_made=tower rather than as a building=*, though this is somewhat debatable. --Jeisenbe (talk) 18:31, 10 September 2020 (UTC)

Tag to identify active fire lookouts?

The proposed tag building=fire_lookout can be used for buildings which were originally constructed as fire lookouts, but have now been converted into accomodations or are no longer in active use. So an additional tag would be needed for fire lookouts which are functional, if this is something that we want to map. Perhaps amenity=fire_lookout or emergency=fire_lookout would work? --Jeisenbe (talk) 18:35, 10 September 2020 (UTC)

This seems like a good suggestion. My intent when I drafted the proposal was actually to tag operational lookouts (or those presumed operational) as building=fire_lookout, and to tag retired lookouts as disused:building=fire_lookout and converted ones as was:building=fire_lookout. Perhaps the lifecycle tags aren't appropriate here though as they conflate the physical characteristics of the structure with its current purpose or use.
Maybe the more appropriate tagging is to use building=fire_lookout for both operational fire lookouts and operational chalets/visitor centers/etc which were built as fire lookouts, and to distinguish between these by tagging the former as emergency=fire_lookout and the latter using the appropriate tourism=* tags. The lifecycle prefixes could then be reserved for lookouts that are truly disused or abandoned. Thoughts? Jake Low (talk) 19:56, 10 September 2020 (UTC)
I would not use disused:building=* unless the building itself is abandoned and falling apart, and therefore is no longer a functional building - in which case abandoned:building is more appropriate. In theory the value of building=* is supposed to represent how the building was originally built. So your second idea seems good to me. --Jeisenbe (talk) 00:46, 11 September 2020 (UTC)
Okay, I've updated the draft. Thanks for your feedback! —Jake Low (talk) 04:16, 11 September 2020 (UTC)
The new text looks good, except you should change "node" to "feature" in this line: "{Tag|emergency|fire_lookout}} to indicate that a node... is used for fire spotting" - since buildings are most often mapped as areas rather than nodes --Jeisenbe (talk) 06:35, 11 September 2020 (UTC)
Fixed :-) — Jake Low (talk) 07:04, 11 September 2020 (UTC)

My opinion


I'm familiar with the French fire brigade system. In France, all fire lookouts are towers. Do we know what proportion of fire lookouts in the world aren't towers? First, I would prefer tower:type=fire lookouts as a "fiction" for tagging, because fire lookouts are all on high points (even if not necessarily towers), but if it's really too embarrassing, I think the best is fire lookouts=*. The tag building for me should'nt be used to tag "amenities". Gendy54 (talk) 21:26, 19 November 2020 (UTC)

Thanks for your input. In answer to your question, I found this webpage belonging to a hiker who's visited every lookout in my home state of Washington, USA. The list contains 93 lookouts, and looking over it I count 37 that are not towers, and perhaps another 35 that I would say are in a gray area between building and tower. In the proposal, I suggest tagging these as both building=fire_lookout and man_made=tower, though perhaps there is a better solution. My logic here was that they're buildings because they're permanent structures that provide housing (i.e. are fully enclosed and insulated), but they're also clearly towers as they're elevated significantly off the ground by a support structure.
Regardless, it appears that around 40% of fire lookouts in Washington are not towers. I expect the proportion to be similar for other states in the western U.S., since the terrain and the history of fire lookout usage are similar across this region.
I agree with you that building shouldn't be used to tag amenities. A key nuance of this proposal is that it introduces both a building tag value to describe a structure, and an emergency tag value which can be used to describe an 'amenity' of sorts. I believe both tags are needed. Fire lookouts are structures with a distinctive appearance, and it's useful to tag the structure to reflect this even if it's no longer being used for its original intended purpose of fire spotting. This is similar to tagging a building=church with building:use=apartments, to reflect both the type of structure and the current use of said structure. Another example of this is building=fire_station (for buildings originally built as fire stations) vs. amenity=fire_station (for grounds of active fire stations). — Jake Low (talk) 22:39, 1 December 2020 (UTC)

What about emergency building?

Thank you for this proposal, it's a really interesting topic and I appreciate when it's about downgrading tower:type=* usage. How do you feel about changing building=emergency in place of building=fire_lookout? It would allow to always look for fire lookouts with emergency=*. Fanfouer (talk) 13:59, 22 November 2020 (UTC)

Thanks for the suggestion. I think that since building=emergency doesn't yet have any documented usage, it's best to stick with building=fire_lookout which parallels the existing building=fire_station. This tag is intended to describe a particular type of structure with unique physical features, like the examples shown in the proposal. It seems to me that if building=emergency were used in place of building=fire_lookout, it wouldn't be possible to tag fire lookouts which are no longer used by emergency personnel, since building=emergency isn't specific enough by itself but emergency=fire_lookout is inappropriate for historic lookouts that are no longer in service. — Jake Low (talk) 22:39, 1 December 2020 (UTC)
Thank you for answer, I understand how building=* is used here. Isn't fire_lookout too specific for building? How do you feel with simpler building=lookout which can support any kind of lookouts? I'm ok with emergency=fire_lookout anyway. Fanfouer (talk) 23:52, 1 December 2020 (UTC)
I'm open to that. I think in that case I'd need to expand the proposal though to describe what other types of structures would also be appropriate to tag with building=lookout. Do you have specific ideas of how this tag would be used? I know there's tower:type=observation and tower:type=watchtower, but the examples of these that I can think of aren't enclosed and therefore aren't really "buildings", so it seems the existing tagging for these is adequate in most cases. — Jake Low (talk) 01:30, 2 December 2020 (UTC)
That's a good point, building=lookout could indeed include tower:type=observation and tower:type=watchtower. As to make this proposal adopted, it shouldn't change too much at the same time. First step could be to choose an generic enough definition for building=lookout and use it in further proposal to move other tower:type=* values, couldn't you?

Following on from the arrangement of the current emergency= page, I'd suggest emergency=fire_lookout + fire_lookout=tower / building. You'd also include access=private / public to show whether it's a public lookout. --Fizzie41 (talk) 23:43, 23 June 2021 (UTC)

Fire lookouts as ranger stations.

What about tagging active fire lookouts with amenity=ranger_station, ranger_station=fire_lookout? Active fire lookouts in the United States are usually staffed with employees or volunteers from whatever agency manages the lookout, similar to a backcountry ranger station. Fire lookouts converted to rental use could be tagged with tourism=wilderness_hut or tourism=chalet.

Thanks for your feedback. This is an interesting suggestion. On the one hand, the staffed fire lookouts that I've visited are essentially doing double-duty as ranger stations. But I guess I have a couple of concerns about tagging them this way.
First, fire lookouts aren't usually staffed year-round – just during the fire season. This makes tagging them with correct opening hours difficult, as it'll vary year to year. If a hiker saw a "ranger station" on their map, they'd be likely to assume it was a place they could go if they needed help (e.g. a member of their party was injured or lost). I wouldn't want someone to think that a fire lookout (which is unlikely to have specific opening hours tagged) was a general-purpose ranger station and walk to it, only to discover it was closed for the winter.
Second, while in the U.S. at least many fire lookouts are on public land and are staffed by employees of the Park Service or Forest Service, I think it's possible that fire lookouts exist on private land, in which case tagging them as ranger stations would be incorrect.
I think probably the safer thing to do is to use emergency=fire_lookout, as the proposal is currently written, but to allow also tagging lookouts with amenity=ranger_station if they serve that role. Hopefully any lookouts that are officially serving in that capacity will also have specific published opening hours/days which can be tagged. — Jake Low (talk) 22:39, 1 December 2020 (UTC)

Specific purposes, reference

I support this proposal, I'm often hiking and mapping near these types of lookouts. I notice some categories of them as others mentioned:

  1. actively used fire lookouts, staffed by US Forest Service or others
  2. closed fire lookouts, which serve as a sort of museum
  3. publicly available fire lookouts, available for rental

When searching on for lodging, the options include campsites, lookouts, and cabins. Lookout is specifically separate from cabins and I think having this as an OSM tag is helpful. I agree that they are not always towers, even though they may have multiple floors (so just a 2-3 story building, but I've stayed in some which are the shape of a cube, set on top of a peak, with no steps or ladder to access, as its not a tower and single floor. Overall, lookouts are not towers, are not ranger stations, but are a specific type of building built with a specific purpose: having a shelter that affords the necessary view from a strategic location (mountain peak or other) to view forests and watch for fires. It is not a mountain or alpine hut nor a chalet, despite sometimes meriting a tourism=* tag. It often is designed in such a way that it has a 360 degree view, and is above forest canopy by one method or other (sometimes in the forest but elevated above it by stilts, sometimes on a peak overlooking the forest). Because it is so specifically designed it should be subcategorized with other types of alpine, mountain, wilderness, or tourism huts, and I think it merits the build tag at the very least.

I've stayed in these:

And been outside this closed on, which is multi-floor but not an elevated tower:

A good description of why this type of building is unique comes from the Clay Butte Lookout page above:

Clay Butte Lookout incorporates many standard design features, such as the tower, observation cab, and living quarters. However, it represents a now uncommon battered wood enclosed tower with first-story garage and storage area, second-story living quarters, and third-story observation cab used solely for fire detection. The tower represents Forest Service standardized L-1 06 tower design with a BC-301 cab . The timber type style of architecture was preferred by the Forest Service for use in woodland country during the CCC era, and Clay Butte Lookout is sympathetic to such a high country setting. Although the majority of lookouts were constructed of steel for convenience and durability

-- cbeddow

Thanks for the interesting links and in particular for the excerpt describing Clay Butte Lookout. As an aside, if you have suggestions on how to tag the standardized designs used in many U.S. fire towers, I'd be interested to hear them. I think that would be a great addition to this proposal (or a future proposal) but I'm not knowledgeable enough about this subject to have any concrete ideas. I did find this page interesting though. — Jake Low (talk) 22:39, 1 December 2020 (UTC)