Did you know bears can live to be 75?
At least this one can. Smokey Bear, that national fire prevention icon, was honored on Friday, August 9, in Manorville, when the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation renamed the Otis Pike Preserve-West — approximately 20 acres of grassland — Smokey Bear Field.
Of course the ursine idol was there in the flesh, sort of, to greet the DEC’s regional director Carrie Meek Gallagher and forest ranger Captain Timothy Byrnes, along with a crowd of onlookers, and cut his 75th anniversary cake.
The field lies east of Line Road and just south of Grumman Road in Manorville, and has long been used by DEC forest rangers and volunteers to teach about wildfire control efforts, like prescribed fires.
“This field in the heart of the Pine Barrens, which is both a fire-prone and a fire-dependent ecosystem, reinforces Smokey’s iconic ‘Only You Can Prevent Wildfires’ message,” Gallagher said. “DEC forest rangers and other volunteers frequently conduct prescribed fires on this field in order to restore grassland habitats, become proficient in wildland firefighting techniques, and build a buffer where local volunteer firefighters can potentially deploy resources. This truly is a field where DEC makes concentrated efforts to ‘Prevent Wildfires’ and their destruction, just as Smokey taught us.”
Smokey continues to be the most recognized symbol of fire prevention in the world. On August 9, 1944, the creation of Smokey Bear was authorized by the U.S. Forest Service, and the first poster was delivered on October 10 by artist Albert Staehle. The poster depicted a bear pouring a bucket of water on a campfire.