Contact(s): Catherine Koele - 608-219-9075
MADISON - The national symbol of fire prevention, Smokey Bear, will turn 68 years old on August 9, 2012. Despite some recent rain, emergency burning restrictions will remain in effect in 11 counties in southern Wisconsin. The Department of Natural Resources will continue to assess rainfall amounts daily to determine when the restrictions will be lifted.
"Smokey's birthday couldn't have come at a better time for us and his message of preventing wildfires will continue to hold meaning through this drought we are experiencing here in Wisconsin," says Catherine Koele, Forest Fire Prevention specialist for the DNR.
According to the National Weather Service, severe to extreme drought conditions continue in much of southern Wisconsin. In the short-term, several soaking rain events and cooler temperatures are necessary; however, drought recovery is a long-term process and will continue into the fall and winter months.
"Summer is traditionally the time of year when vegetation is lush and green from regular rain events resulting in lower fire danger. This year is different. With the burning restrictions, we've been able to prevent a lot of unnecessary wildfires and we feel they have been and will continue to be successful."
In Wisconsin, nine out of 10 wildfires are caused by people. Fire control officials report nearly 1,200 fires burning more than 2,000 acres in DNR protection areas this year. Since the drought and the DNR imposed burning restrictions, the majority of the fires have been caused by equipment. In a normal fire season, debris burning is the number one cause of wildfires.
Illustrator Albert Staehle drew the first image of Smokey Bear on August 9, 1944. Since then, he has been the focal point of many posters, billboards and television commercials around the country. His image and famous saying, "only you can prevent wildfires" continues to promote fire education and awareness. Next to Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse, Smokey Bear is one of the most recognized characters in the United States.
For more information on Smokey Bear, visit www.smokeybear.com For the most current fire danger in Wisconsin and a list of the counties under emergency burning restrictions, visit dnr.wi.gov keyword "fire" Otherwise, residents and tourists are encouraged to contact their local DNR office, fire department, town or municipal officials for more information on local fire restrictions.