D. Gary Davis
For Tuesday 11/15/2016
During my online research for today’s article I typed in "Bears” and found many different items of interest. Did you know that on the local Bradley Central High School’s webpage the following statement is available that states "The first Bradley Central High School graduating class in 1917 had only eight seniors. Today the senior class exceeds four hundred with a total student population of over seventeen hundred in grades 9 through 12?” On the national level the Chicago Bears were formed in 1919 and this current World Series Baseball Champions named the Chicago Cubs survived a "drought” for over 108 years. Who could forget the famous Saturday morning voice of Yogi Bear at Camp Jellystone Park saying "Hello, Mr. Ranger, sir!” & "Hey there, Boo Boo?” At this time, locally and across our region, there is another "Bear” that has a valuable message for us, and his name is Smokey Bear.
Interestingly this bear’s beginnings go back to the spring of 1942 during World War II at a time when Americans feared the destruction of our forest resources. This fear was heightened when a Japanese submarine fired shells onto an oil field in Southern California near Los Padres National Forest. While no devastating forest fire was started this gave forestry officials the impetus to provide protection. The USDA Forest Service organized the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Program (CFFP) in 1942. This helped to mobilize the civilian effort to protect valuable trees. Walt Disney’s Bambi character was very popular and eventually became a part of an initial anti-fire poster. On August 2, 1944 the Forest Service and the War Advertising Council introduced a bear as their campaign symbol. The next year Albert Staehle a noted illustrator of animals developed the first "Smokey Bear” that received his name to honor the Assistant Chief of the New York City Fire Department from 1919 to 1930, Mr. "Smokey” Joe Martin. Two living symbols of Smokey Bear were also a part of this historical journey from around 1950 until 1990. Through many artist changes, as well as the evolution of the War Advertising Council into the Advertising Council, since 1965 the image and message of Smokey Bear has remained one of truth, "Only you can prevent forest fires!”
With this historical fact finding tour over, you may ask what does this have to do with us locally. The answer is quite simply, A LOT.
Bradley County, and our region, are enduring a drought of a different sort and this has left us in a deficit of over 18 inches of rain. This "rain delay” has helped to give us the perfect storm of which we are all not only seeing the effects of, but that many in our region are witnessing first hand. Local Emergency Responders, Fire Departments, Law Enforcement, Forestry Service and the Emergency Management Agency have been working together to not only mitigate the effects of an unplanned fire, but to also help prevent all those that are humanly possible to do so. IT IS ILLEGAL TO BURN ANY ITEM OUTSIDE AT THIS TIME without a permit all across Bradley County. The devastation of a fire that becomes out of control from a mishandled camp fire to a carelessly tossed cigarette are all the same. Please help us, help them, to help keep us all safer during this time until we get some more of the much needed rain.
The TN Commissioner of Agriculture has joined with our local governments to issue a BURN BAN that is in place now, and will remain, even with any subsequent rain, until lifted by the same entities. Prohibited fires include leaves, burn barrels, brush, fence rows, gardens, fields, camp fires, household waste, and many more items too numerous to list here. For the safety of yourself, your neighbors and your community, just remember that no burning of any material outside is allowed at this time.
The ability to work together to achieve a goal is one in which Bradley County has always excelled. I have no reason to think that this time will be anything other than being also successful. Thank you for your help in this process and I have two reminders for us all: 1) There is no "the” in Smokey Bear. 2) There is nothing that we cannot accomplish together, which is why I always say, Bradley County is Tennessee at its best.