TikTok’s Latest Superstar is a Forest Service Fire Lookout

The everyday routines of keeping forests safe

Wildfires fueled by high winds and dry conditions burn out of control in Los Alamos, New Mexico 11 May.
PAUL BUCK/AFP via Getty Images

What makes for a compelling presence on TikTok? For some viewers, it might be the ability to gain insight into a favorite celebrity. For others, it might be irreverent comedy or insightful takes on politics. (Or both.) As with many social media platforms, the range of possibilities is virtually endless.

Writing at Gizmodo, Molly Sims offers readers a window into the life of Kelsey Sims, who has amassed a substantial following on the platform via an unexpected path. Sims works as a fire lookout for the Forest Service in New Mexico, and documents her life in a cabin on top of a mountain there. For viewers, that can mean everything from a tour of the cabin’s facilities to stunning images of the nearby landscape to alarming explorations of fires in the distance.

Sims’s TikTok account covers a lot of ground, but figuratively and literally. Taft refers to Sims’s videos as “uniquely addicting,” and writes that she offers “unique insights into a job most Americans might not even know exists in the modern age.”

The fact that Sims works as a fire lookout during a time when wildfires in the western US have become more prevalent also might explain part of why so many people find her account compelling. In conversation with Taft, she offered details on the specifics of her job, including the fact that she is “required to look for fires 15 to 20 minutes every hour, thoroughly scanning the sky, looking at the ridgelines.”

When asked why she started her TikTok, Sims told Taft that it was, in part, because “literally no one understands what I do for a living.” Thanks to her efforts, many more people are now aware of the daily routine of a fire lookout — and might have a better sense of what it takes to protect the nation’s forests.

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