Youngsters learn the bear necessities of fire safety, prevention

Youngsters learn the bear necessities of fire safety, prevention

26 April 2013

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USA — Children in the afterschool program at the West Yellowstone School were all smiles last Monday, as the program welcomed members of the Gallatin National Forest and wildfire prevention mascot Smokey Bear for an afternoon of education and excitement.

“I think the kids enjoyed learning about forest fires and how to put a campfire out, because they didn’t know,” afterschool program director Billie Richards said.

Gallatin National Forest fire information officer Marianne Baumberger and fire prevention technician Brian Koscielniak gave the presentation. The two began with a brief introduction on fire safety and prevention, as the small mountain town of West Yellowstone is completely surrounded by heavily wooded areas.

“It’s good for children to learn when they’re young, so they can get their parents to do the same things,” Baumberger said. “Many fires come from campfires because sometimes people think the fire is out, but they need to touch the ashes to make sure it’s not hot. Hopefully (the children) will do this when they get older.”

According to the fire information officer, spreading helpful information in regard to fire safety is critical when living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

“They live in a special area and the ecosystem has always been a part of the fire ecosystem,” she said. “We want to teach them that fires are important and sometimes good. We teach them that there is a balance.”

Later in her talk, Baumberger educated her young audience about the difference between wildland firefighters and structural firefighters and how they differ.

“It’s easy to lump us with structural firefighters,” she said. “So I talked about how wild land firefighters are different.”

After a brief talk and presentation, Smokey Bear made his appearance, where he greeted eager children with hugs and high-fives.

“We like for them to get to know Smokey,” Baumberger said.

According to Richards, the afterschool program brings in various special guests throughout the year to keep the children engaged and to offer something other than just a time to complete homework. This was the first time Smokey Bear made an appearance at the program, and the director was pleased with how it went

“It was great to have someone talk to them about campfires, and to have someone explain what firefighters do, especially with all of the forests we have around us,” Richards said. “We average 35 kids per day, so it’s good to have someone fun come in. (The children) all said it was fun to touch, hug and high-five (Smokey Bear).”

According to Richards, the afterschool program has been offering services to youngsters for the past 13 years and is not affiliated with the West Yellowstone School. The program is run through the local organization Helping Hands.

With fire season closing in, Baumberger says she’s more than happy to give additional talks to those interested.

“If people want programs or talks, we’re happy to do that,” she said.

For additional information contact Baumberger at (406) 522-2549.

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