Atop Birmingham's Ruffner Mountain sits the abandoned Wharton Fire Tower.The tower, built in 1941, fell into disuse in the '70s once increased development and cheap aircraft fire spotting obsoleted the tower.
During its time of use, one or two men would climb the tower and stand vigil, looking for fires in the forests. If one was spotted, they used a rangefinding device to relay the location of the fire to the proper authorities. The tower also served as a mounting point for a radio navigation beacon, aiding pilots on their way to the Birmingham Municipal Airport. Today, the tower is used for a Birmingham School educational program, and possibly for some other radio services. The hum of electrical equipment can be heard coming from the locked doors of the building at the base of the tower. Entry to the top of the tower requires a tall ladder, as the stairs leading to ground level have been removed, climbing safety equipment, and a strong nerve. Many of the wooden stairs are rotted or missing altogether. The doors to the transmitter building have bullet holes in them.