At 75, Smokey Bear continues message to prevent forest fires

LOWER ALSACE TWP., Pa. - A national icon is turning 75. You may know him as Smokey Bear. For years, his message has stayed the same: "Only you can prevent forest fires."

A cub badly burned in a forest fire sparked the inspiration to create Smokey 75 years ago.

His birthday celebration at the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower atop Mount Penn in Lower Alsace Township on Saturday included recognizing the tower's 80th birthday.

"Smokey is important because it teaches us and the children to be safe and to keep our nature safe from fire," said party-goer Maria Vazquez.

Constructed 80 years ago, the fire tower served as a backdrop to the party, but also as a symbol to further push the message of fire safety. Forestry crews said even in Berks County, several people have died in wildland fires, so the threat is real.

"When you're out, just be safe," said Greg Reese with the Bureau of Forestry. "Try to make sure you extinguish anything that you're doing, but be mindful of his message that it's us who can prevent fires."

The Hamburg Forest Fire Crew and Bureau of Forestry put together fire safety stations, which included safety demonstration, brush trucks displays and activities for kids.

"What we are really trying to do is get people to understand that they are a role in the prevention of fires," Dean Dalious with the Hamburg Forest Fire crew said.

Party-goes said this is a celebration, but they understand that Smokey's message continues to ring true so many years later, and they also hope everyone plays a role and follows that message.

"Our natural resources are important and we need to keep them safe in order for us to have a beautiful Earth," said Vazquez.

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