Smokey the Bear teaches Woodland Primary Schools students how to prevent forest fires

Smokey visits area school along with Amanda Dales, school instructor for the USDA Forest Service

WOODLAND — Smokey the Bear visited Woodland Primary School along with Amanda Dales, School Instructor for the USDA Forest Service, to teach students the importance of fire safety and how to prevent forest fires.

Smokey the Bear helped teach Woodland Primary School students fire safety and how to prevent forest fires. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools
Smokey the Bear helped teach Woodland Primary School students fire safety and how to prevent forest fires. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools

Smokey and Dales also taught the students how to put out forest fires, the importance of taking everything with you when you leave a forest, and what to do if they come across a forest fire.

Dales taught students the concept of “packing in and packing out,” taking everything out of the forest that you bring into the forest. She also gave the rules around campfires and fire safety. Students learned the “Drown, Stir, Feel” technique for extinguishing campfires:

  • First, drown the campfire using a full bucket of water.
  • Second, stir the ashes using a shovel or a stick.
  • Third, have an adult feel for heat from the ashes using the back of the hand.
  • Repeat until no heat is felt from the fire.

Dales told the origin story of Smokey the Bear, a baby bear who was found clinging to a tree following a massive forest fire started by a visitor to the park. Firefighters found the bear and took him to a local veterinarian office who treated the bear’s burns and other wounds. From that point on, the Forest Service used Smokey the Bear as a mascot to teach children and adults the importance of being aware of the causes of forest fire and how to prevent them.

 

Smokey the Bear has been the Forest Service mascot and teacher of fire safety since 1950. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools
Smokey the Bear has been the Forest Service mascot and teacher of fire safety since 1950. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools

 

Students learned that 9 out of 10 forest fires are started by humans with only 1 out of 10 started naturally by lightning strikes. Dales explained that the Eagle Creek Fire from the beginning of the school year was started by one child playing with one firework. Dales taught students that if they ever come across a forest fire, they should immediately leave the area, tell an adult, and call 9-1-1.

“Children are more responsible than their parents in most cases,” said Dales. “Kids will actually hold their parents accountable for putting out fires. It’s fascinating.”

Following Dales presentation, Smokey the Bear greeted students and quizzed them on their lessons through the help of a translator, Vicky Black, a volunteer who has worked with the Forest Service for more than five years. Each student received a “Smokey’s Friend” bracelet and had the opportunity to either hug or high-five Smokey on their way out of the classroom.

Smokey the Bear quizzed students at Woodland Primary School on their lessons with the help of local volunteer, Vicky Black. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools
Smokey the Bear quizzed students at Woodland Primary School on their lessons with the help of local volunteer, Vicky Black. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools

“I happened to be in Amboy Market one afternoon and saw a sign looking for volunteers for the Forest Service,” said Vicky. “There’s just something about nature that interests me and I love being around people.”

Dales, based in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, has worked for the forest service as a firefighter for more than 15 years, spending the last three years teaching students throughout Washington state where she teaches more than 1,500 students a year.

“My dad was a fire chief and I started volunteering as a firefighter when I was 16 years old,” she said. “I love traveling all over the United States and seeing places where no one else will ever step foot.”

Information provided by Woodland Public Schools.

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