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Pinnacle Fire Tower featured in new book

Pinnacle Mountain Fire Tower in Unicoi is one of many towers in the Blue Ridge Mountains that are discussed in Robert Sorrell’s new book, “Blue Ridge Fire Towers,” published by The History Press, that hit stores earlier this month.
Sorrell, writer with the Bristol Herald Courier, used his past experiences working with the Elizabethton Star and The Erwin Record, to prepare for his career as an author. Sorrell stated his first book “Images of America: Roan Mountain” allowed him to prepare for his newest endeavor.
“There was a fire tower in Roan Mountain,” said Sorrell, discussing the Roan High Knob. “It was only there for 10 years back in the 1930s … I wanted to know more about that and it just started to make me think more about the other fire towers in the area.”
Over 100 pages of historic information on fire towers, including photographs from Sorrell and other outlets, and interviews are featured in the book.
“After I learned more, I contacted the History Press,” he said. “Basically, I started contacting different historical associations and archives. I travel a lot and talked to different people. Really, most of it came from traveling; it was quite an experience putting it all together.”
Along with historic information, Sorrell was able to gather information from people associated with the towers during his travels and documented different tales.
“A lot of the towers I was able to go to, there were people there,” he said. “When I went to the Pinnacle Tower, when I was working on the book, there was a man that knew of some of the other towers, and I thought that was neat. I think it was his uncle that worked on a tower in Virginia. A lot of the towers are on the Appalachian Trail so it was nice being able to talk to different hikers and get their thoughts on the towers.
“Since I live in this area, I really put my focus into the area. The Pinnacle Tower, Holston Mountain Tower, Roan Mountain, a couple in Greene County … visiting these towers, you can see for miles. And a lot of the people that live in these communities have stories of visiting these towers and people that they knew who worked on these towers, so they are a really important aspect of this area.”
In “Blue Ridge Fire Towers,” Sorrell digs deep into the history of the Pinnacle Tower, from its installation to the close and to the re-opening following the restoration of the tower in 2011. Included are interviews with Town of Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch, Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch and Erwin resident Fred Hardin who manned the towers for eight years during the 1980s.
The book also references a fire tower that was established in the Temple Hill area, Sorrell said. The towers locally are just the tip of the iceberg in the documentary efforts.
“A lot of the stories haven’t been told before,” he said. “You’re not going to find these stories anywhere and that’s one of the things I really enjoyed. When I did the Roan Mountain book, I was pleased with all the stories I was able to get from that community.
“I tried to include enough information for everybody so people would be interested, from the history, to stories with the hikers and anybody interested in photography. The History Press really put together a great product, that’s what they’re known for and they did a great job with it.”
“Blue Ridge Fire Towers” is available for $19.99 through Arcadia Publishing. Individuals interested in purchasing a copy can check local retailers, online bookstores or through Arcadia Publising online at or by phone at 888-313-2655.
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