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Naturally speaking: Smokey Bear celebrates his 80th

Just recently  smoke billowed from the top of a hill overlooking St. Clair. Yet another brush fire in Schuylkill County.

State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources forester Will Thomas, who is based at the Locust Valley Fire Station next to Tuscarora State Park, said that last year Schuylkill County had more than 300 wildfires.” Retired forester Frank Snyder of Orwigsburg had said there used to be about 500 fires a year in our county.

What causes wildfires? Some are set, but others happen due to downed power lines, cavalier approaches to burning trash outdoors, campfires that get out of hand, and just plain carelessness with fire.

But, who taught you “Only you.” If you said, Smokey Bear, then you had the opportunity to cross paths with
the character, especially as a youngster. I am old enough to call him “Smokey the Bear” — over the course of time and thanks to good grammar skills, his “middle name” got dropped.

There really was a Smokey Bear, though the wildfire prevention campaign associated with the character had its beginnings in 1944. Here is Smokey’s story from

“One spring day in 1950, in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico, an operator in one of the fire towers spotted smoke and called the location in to the nearest ranger station. The first crew discovered a major wildfire sweeping along the ground between the trees, driven by a strong wind. Word spread rapidly, and more crews reported to help.

Forest rangers, local crews from New Mexico and Texas, and the New Mexico State Game Department set out to gain control of the raging wildfire. As the crew battled to contain the blaze, they received a report of a lone bear cub seen wandering near the fire line. They hoped that the mother bear would return for him. Soon, about 30 of the firefighters were caught directly in the path of the fire storm. They survived by lying face down on a rockslide for over an hour as the fire burned past them.

Nearby, the little cub had not fared as well. He took refuge in a tree that became completely charred, escaping with his life but suffering badly burned paws and hind legs. The crew removed the cub from the tree, and a rancher among the crew agreed to take him home.

A New Mexico Department of Game and Fish ranger heard about the cub when he returned to the fire camp. He drove to the rancher’s home to help get the cub on a plane to Santa Fe, where his burns were treated and bandaged.

News about the little bear spread swiftly throughout New Mexico. Soon, the United Press and Associated Press broadcast his story nationwide, and many people wrote and called, asking about the cub’s recovery. The state game warden wrote to the chief of the Forest Service, offering to present the cub to the agency as long as the cub would be dedicated to a conservation and wildfire prevention publicity program.

The cub was soon on his way to the National Zoo in Washington, becoming the living symbol of Smokey Bear.

Smokey received numerous gifts of honey and so many letters he had to have his own ZIP code. He remained at the zoo until his death in 1976, when he was returned to his home to be buried at the Smokey Bear Historical Park in Capitan, N.M., where he continues to be a wildfire prevention legend.

We are very fortunate to have many volunteer fire companies in our county willing to battle the blazes that do occur.

Be sure to visit for more information on how you and any group can celebrate this milestone.

Education is an answer and people of all ages should know ways that ONLY YOU can prevent wildfires!

Source: Berkshire mont

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