DAILY LEADER / KATIE WILLIAMSON / Baylor Sills, 8 is the first to shake the hand of Smokey Bear on his 70th birthday at the Lincoln-Lawrence-Franklin Regional Library on Tuesday.
DAILY LEADER / KATIE WILLIAMSON / Baylor Sills, 8 is the first to shake the hand of Smokey Bear on his 70th birthday at the Lincoln-Lawrence-Franklin Regional Library on Tuesday.

Remember Smokey’s motto and be safe when using fireworks

Published 2:00pm Thursday, July 3, 2014

In 1950 a small bear cub was caught in a forest fire in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico. The orphan bear managed to escape but was badly burned in the process.

It did not take long for the news to spread about the little bear. After his recuperation, he was taken to the National Zoo in Washington D.C., where Smokey Bear became a national symbol for fire prevention and conservation.

This year marks the famed bear’s 70th birthday and 70 years of wildfire prevention. With the Fourth of July coming up Thursday, the bear’s message of preventing wildfires is on the minds of firefighters and safety officials.

According to the National Fire Protection Association each Fourth of July, thousands of people, mostly children and teenagers, are injured while using consumer fireworks.

Jim Phillips, assistant southwest district forester, said the local commission is on high alert for the possibility of firework fires over the holiday. He added that fires could easily be started with bottle rockets and other projectiles.

“Make sure you have a hose or some type of water sprayer near to put out any fire,” said Phillips. “Be safe and just use good sense.”

There are no restrictions on fireworks in the county, but it is illegal to shoot them inside the city limits.

Phillips said that although this Fourth of July will not see extreme conditions, the area is still dry and has a slight wind, so people should be extra cautious when using fireworks.

This holiday in celebration of his 70th birthday, remember Smokey’s motto; “Only you can prevent wildfires.”