Fire Tower's and Antennas

I’m looking to do a SOTA activation or two on my trip to the Adirondacks next week. I plan on activating either W2/GA-013, W2/GA-021, W2/GA-022, or W2/GA-279.

All 4 mountains have fire towers on the summit, all of which are fully open to the public. I have been up Snowy before and have a general idea of what the fire towers are like. However I’ve never set up an antenna on one. If figure for the extra free height it would be worth it to try.

Radio is the MFJ 9200, antenna tuner is the QRPGuys EFHW tuner (same design as the hendricks kit). I have wire cut for 20 and 40m.

I’m guessing just hanging wire off the side of the cab is not going to work, as the wire will be dangling within inches of the metal structure. Has anyone done this and have any suggestions?

N3TWM - Evan

For all the futzing around necessary to get it to work… I just do my normal set-up near the tower after I’ve taken a walk/climb up to see the view.

Richard // N2GBR


I use Richards approach also, keeps me out of the way of the visitors who simply want to look at the view. The Fire Towers in VK3 are manned during our summer months and whilst the risk of interference from a low powered ham transmitter is small I also keep my distance for that reason.

However on one summit whose top was a lookout of about 8 feet in diameter I did use the squid pole horizontal. Tied the bottom end along the top of the lookout fence and poked the top end out into free space. I then used a pulley arrangement to dangle the end fed antenna off the far end of the pole, a bit like a fishing line.

Have a good trip,
73, Warren vk3byd

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If you dangle a wire the right distance away from the metal structure, it can make a Yagi. Maybe not a very good one, but it should be directional.


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Hello Evan -
I’ve had success several times in tossing the end of my EFHW from the tower catwalk to a nearby tree. It sometimes takes a couple tries of course. And I’ve also strung from the catwalk to a fishing pole some distance from the tower - usually leaning the pole against a tree.
If the tower is busy, the suggestions that were made to set up ‘regular-like’ is a good one. The towers around here are wood, so I’ve also dangled the antenna right off the catwalk a few times.

With my LNR Trail-Friendly EFHW, I set up well away from the tower but I have some cord supported from the fire tower to the end of my EFHW. This gets the far end of my antenna well off the ground. Also, I’ve hung my EFHW as a sloper but the far end of the EFHW was always a good distance from metal firetowers. The several times that I have setup on the top floor of the firetower and let me EFHW hang down vertically, I have always experienced too much interaction with the metal firetower (high SWRs). In those cases, the EFHW was at the end of my fibreglass pole…maybe 12 ft or so from the tower. Also, I try to activate early AM or late PM to get away from the crowds visiting the firetowers.

Just my experience. Guy/n7un

HI Evan,

I do what Warren does these days. Set up away from the tower.

Some fire spotters are paranoid about visitors and nearby antennas. Here fire towers are rarely accessible - usually only with an invitation. Security has been stepped up over the last few years so tying a doublet end to a tower without permission could have repercussions,

The viewing towers usually have sightseers all over them. While it’s good to expose our hobby to the public I’m just as happy to have my own quiet enjoyment.

There is also the OH&S aspects that our licencing has included - separation of the antenna from the public when transmitting - usually 3m is enough.

If you can access a tower to hold up the antenna without any issues then go for it.

Just get out and have fun.


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I just want to state that the towers in the ADK’s are no longer actively used for firewatching, and are instead used as viewing platforms for the public. The mountain we are going to climb is pretty well of the beaten path and most people who climb it report that the trip is largely spent in solidarity, if not entirely. So I’m not too worried about running into others, and there is no issue with having a wire antenna nearby as there will be no park staff in the cab or nearby.

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Sounds good.
How do you guys spot fires?


Not too sure. There is a good deal more people up in that part of the state now than when the towers were built in the early 1900s. Between that, the state police, the Air Force pilots who train up there, tourists, the park rangers, logging companies, etc, most get spotted quickly enough without having to pay someone to become a hermit. And now that biologists have managed to convince people that forest fires are good for forests, and since the forest is more valuable as green space compared to lumber, they tend not to go nuts trying to put them out. They do what they can and protect cabins and other structures first, then put out the fire in time.

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I activated w2/GA297 yesterday hanging my vertical wire antenna from a tree (QRP Guys unun antenna). No issues. Then I attempted to activate W2/GA022 today hanging the apex from a fire tower. While I was successful, SWR was crazy. Now I had my back up which is a small Elecraft telescopic vertical. Didn’t have to resort to it. But I learned my lesson: stay away from the metal USFS towers.


I have used a metal fire tower a few times to support a base fed 20/40M EFHW sloper where there was sufficient clearing around the tower. The upper end has a generous amount of string/cord guy line (20’) to keep it clear of the metal tower. Check the geometry of the sloper ahead of time to know the ideal dimensions. Also I tied it off at a stairway landing below the cab, not in or at the cab itself. For Field Day 2021 the sloper worked great on 14 and 21 MHz. Stay well & 73! Mike, WB2FUV


We have lots of observation towers at summits here in Styria. I have dabbled with dropping a wire off the side. I pull it out a bit at the bottom to make a sloper, it doesn’t have to be too far from the structure to work fine. Are there going to be other civil radio antennas on these towers? If so, it might be a bit noisy, depends on what kind of stuff is running there. I’ve always been fascinated by fire towers and would love to spend a week in one with my KX2.
73 Matt


On those structure types I project the driven element outward horizontal to the ground, the drop a gnd plane down the vertical side of the structure. I often will attach the ground plane to the metal frame of the structure. I do this with 1/4 wave resonant sections so the feed point at the rail is a low impedance, 50 ohm point. This has worked well for me in multi story hotels that have opening windows. Note - if you ask at a hotel front desk about the availability of opening windows on the upper floors you may incur a lot of additional questions from the security detail.


I have tossed a wire out over a tree, I have tossed a wire straight down the side. Both worked well. It’s fun to try different stuff. Scott kw4jm


Last year there was a similar discussion: Should I use my vertical horizontal? More results

73 Ludwig


There is an unused flag pole next to a fire tower in W4G. I’ve used the tower supports to throw a rope over for an EFHW, and have also used the flag pole to raise both the SOTA flag and an EFHW at the same time.


Good call. I will pack a bungee or two next time I’m activating a peak with a fire tower. Just finished activating 4 peaks over 5 days in the Adirondacks. Since I won’t be back for a few years, I’ll add to my packing list now….

I used the large lookout tower on Kreuzberg OE/ST-382 today. Since I shortened my antenna to a halfwave on 30m, even the bottom was well above ground level. I just let it hang down and used a trekking pole to get it a bit further out.

The only fly in the ointment is the local QRM. Both 20 and 30m are about S7 with the filters open. Closing them completely makes things bearable, but weak stations still have trouble getting through. 10m and 40m are OK and luckily, there was some sporadic E about today:

Sorry to any chasers who didn’t get through, but now you know why. I’m tempted to try some BPFs next year (not sure they’ll work), as the antenna itself worked amazingly well.
73 de OE6FEG

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Hi Matt,

I did a similar setup from a tower in the Black Forrest: SOTLAS. The tower has a height of around 30m.

Since my start with SOTA in the same year, I never experienced such a pile-up with so strong signals.

I used a 12m long EFHW (after about 10m a loading coil for the 40-meter band is inserted) that was nearly horizontal due to strong wind.
I added some weight at the end of the radiator wire to keep the wire kind of straight.
The wire was maybe 4m away from the tower, using my 6m long glass fiber mast.

Because the weather was so bad, nobody else was on top of the tower :grin:

73 Stephan