USA — Joining Smokey Bear and CAL FIRE official Larry Pendarvis are poster winners, from left, Ryan Mulvaney, Kimberly Martino and Sheila Avalos in front of CAL FIRE headquarters in Visalia. ERIC WOOMER
In big, bold, colorful letters, 10-year-old Sheila Avalos wrote, “If you see smoke, it is not a joke.” Her catchy phrase and bright drawing of Smokey Bear won her this year’s CAL FIRE poster contest ìì and an Xbox 360.
Three fourth-graders, two from Porterville and one from Three Rivers, were awarded first, second and third place Wednesday at CAL FIRE headquarters in Visalia.
The awards took all three by surprise. Family said it was an important moment after five years of learning fire safety.
“I am very proud. I think it’s good that he won third place, even though he wanted to win first,” said Molly Mulvaney, 11, the older sister of 10-year-old Ryan Mulvaney. “Ryan should be proud, too.”
Ryan, Sheila and second-place winner Kimberly Martino, 9, of Three Rivers are all part of CAL FIRE’s fire prevention program, which reaches out to kindergarten through fourth-grade students. Lessons include:
ª Kindergarten: Fire damage to the habitat of animals in the forest ª First grade: Match and fire safety ª Second grade: Students become familiar with fire trucks and engines ª Third grade: Extensive overview of fire safety at home ª Fourth grade: Poster contest on what has been learned
“This poster contest shows the success these lessons have had,” said CAL FIRE’s Larry Pendarvis, who is a part of the fire prevention unit. “There were twice as many poster entries as last year. Kids want to be involved in spreading the word about fire safety.”
CAL FIRE assistant chiefs combed through more than 400 entries this year from schools in areas served by wildland fire companies. Narrowing it down to three finalists wasn’t easy, said Assistant Chief Paul Marquez.
Besides the Xbox 360 Sheila won, Kimberly took home a Nintendo Wii console and Ryan will soon be riding a new bike and skateboard. Thanks to the Walmart Distribution center in Porterville and the Porterville Garden Club, all three students also took home cash and gift cards.
The next stop for the three winning posters will be billboards along roads leading to the county’s wildland areas.
The posters will be placed near the entrance of Springville and Three Rivers and near the Porterville CAL FIRE station along Highway 190.
While the poster contest winners are happy that their artwork will be seen by thousands of motorists, they’re just happy to get the word out.
“It’s Smokey Bear and a raccoon. Not very original, but it gets the point across,” said first-place winner Sheila.