YOUNGSTOWN, Fla. (AP) -- Cell phones and vigilant residents are slowly replacing a one-time staple in fighting wildfires -- the fire tower.
There once were 20 towers in the Chipola River District in Florida's Panhandle. But that number has recently been cut to seven.
Florida Forest Service spokesman Brian Goddin tells the News Herald of Panama City that people in the seven-county district may not have even missed the towers. But the state actually auctioned off several of them five years ago.
In fact, the Forest Service doesn't even own Bay County's only fire tower. It belongs to the sheriff's office.
Goddin says lookouts in the towers once spotted fires and communicated with lookouts in other towers to determine a fire's size.
Cell phones, airplanes and technology have largely replaced them.