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Children learn history of Smokey the Bear
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Gerard Beasley, 23 months, enjoys a visit with Smokey the Bear on Thursday during Magness Librarys Story Time. Smokey attended because the children were learning about the dangers of fire during Fire Prevention Week. - photo by Lisa Hobbs

Smokey the Bear gave a surprise visit to Magness Library on Thursday. He attended its Story Time dedicated to Fire Prevention Week.
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency representative Lisa Goodmaster offered the children a storybook presentation on the real history of Smokey and why he has been educating the public about the dangers of forest fires for 64 years.
One spring day in 1950 in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico, an operator in one of the fire towers to the north spotted smoke and called the location into the nearest ranger station. The first crew discovered a major fire being swept along the ground between the trees, driven by a strong wind. During one of the lulls in the firefighting, a report of a lonely bear cub who had been seen wandering near the fireline was reported. The men left him alone because they thought the mother bear might come for him.
While firefighters continued to battle the blaze, the little cub got caught in the path of the fire. He had taken refuge in a tree that was now completely charred. His climb had saved his life but left him badly burned on the paws and hind legs. A rancher, who had been helping the firefighters, agreed to take the cub home. A New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Ranger heard about the cub and drove to the rancher’s home to get the bear. The cub needed veterinary aid and was flown in a small plane to Santa Fe where the burns were treated and bandaged.
News about the little bear spread swiftly throughout New Mexico. Soon the United Press and Associated Press picked up the story and broadcast it nationwide. Many people wrote or called to inquire about the little bear’s progress. The bear found a home at the National Zoo and became the living symbol of Smokey the Bear.
In 1952, Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins wrote the anthem that would cause a debate among Smokey enthusiasts for decades. In order to maintain the correct rhythm, the writers added a “the” between “Smokey” and “Bear.” As testament to the song’s popularity, Smokey Bear became known as Smokey the Bear to many adoring fans, but in actuality his name never changed, and he is still known correctly as Smokey.
Goodmaster explained to the children that Smokey was always depicted with a shovel because he never used water to put out fires and how they can prevent fires by never playing with matches.
Each child in attendance at Story Time was presented a child’s firefighter helmet provided by McMinnville Fire Department.