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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Richard T Thomas

The Virginia Department of Forestry, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the hundreds and hundreds of emergency responders throughout Virginia (and Nationally) turn a page today. Richard T. Thomas, Assistant Director of the Resource Protection Division works his last day today!! 41 YEARS of service, dedication and commitment has left a mark on everyone he has worked with, befriended and come to know.
Thousands of citizens who have no idea of who Richard T Thomas is also have no idea of the impact he has had on those who are committed to protecting them from wildfires and respond to their needs in times of disasters.

Below is a overview of his career with the Department of Forestry and a letter from his supervisor that states for all of us just how important Richard is to us.

Thank you Rich for being "YOU" and thanks for being a friend!.

The following letter from John Miller expresses not only his feelings but those of all of us as we wish Rich and his family the very best.

Thanks Rich
And as we celebrate Richards retirement lets also celebrate the holiday season..

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Smokey Bear's in the Macy's Parade for the 15th time!!

More Smokey Bear connections with Thanksgiving.

Smokey Bear will be making an appearance in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. NOT as a balloon but as a character on a float. This new float, HATS OFF TO OUR HERITAGE, makes its debut in style celebrating the 85th anniversary of Macy's Parade. On board are two of the parade's most famous leaders - Jean McFaddin and Robin Hall. The stewards of the Macy's parade legacy for a combined 34 years, Macy's tips their hats to the incomparable leaders who each left an indelible mark on the procession. Depicting their famed headgear - a cowboy hat for Jean and a top hat for Robin, the float also features a host of characters that have graced the skies of New York in the line-up from the first-ever Macy's balloon of Felix the Cat to one the newest character Dora The Explorer, including Smokey Bear. The parade's balloon history comes to life on this frolicking float.

When:  Thursday, November 24, 2011; 9:00 am – Noon EST

Where:  New York City, NY

Smokey’s 15th appearance, only a small group of others have appeared more. Snoopy has appeared as a giant balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade more times than any other character in history. As the Flying Ace, Snoopy has appeared 64 times.

The Smokey Bear Balloon first flew in the Macy’s Parade in 1966. The 59 foot balloon was sponsored by the General Electric Company which gave publicity to a network television animated special, “The Ballad of Smokey Bear” which was aired that evening.  The balloon flew in the parade every year from 1966 through 1974 with the exception of 1971. Then he again graced the skies of NYC in 1975, 1978, 1979, 1981 and 1993. He also made an appearance, for the first time as a character NOT a balloon walking alongside of Woodsy Owl, Thermy™, BAC, and Power Panther™ (all USDA characters) in 2000.

Smokey Bear will be escorted by New York State Forest Ranger Captain Eric Lahr.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Smokey Bear and Thanksgiving is there a connection?


 Wow I can’t believe that it’s been a couple of weeks since my last post. Thankfully the wildfire activity has drastically reduced in Virginia and Nationally. Louisiana is still extremely dry but a real good and effective prevention/education campaign is helping keep the fire starts down. Congratulations to the Fire Prevention and Education Teams working out of the Kisatchie National Forest. I hear they are close to producing 2 psa’s, one with the Swamp People and another with the Duck Commanders; these should be unique to say the least.
Most of the leaves are down in the higher elevations of Virginia and it’s NOW we need to have some regular rains and snows to keep the threat of wildfires down. I should say to keep the affects of wildfires down we need PEOPLE to be aware and responsible and to follow Smokey Bears messages to keep the wildfire starts down!
As we go into Thanksgiving week I hope you find the following bit of Smokey history interesting and also find the new coloring sheet fun and helpful in spreading Smokey’s message of Thanks and Wildfire Prevention.
And YES VIRGINIA and others there is a connection between Smokey Bear and Thanksgiving!!!!

 The Ballad of Smokey The Bear Premiered on THANKSGIVING DAY (11-24-1966), 45 years ago! It was the third Rankin/Bass special on the General Electric Full Color Fantasy Hour. This special was written by a newcomer to animated entertainment named Joseph Schrank, who had worked on many classic feature films at MGM. This was the first and last animated-children’s “movie” Schrank wrote. In the tradition of such Rankin-Bass productions as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Little Drummer Boy, the TV holiday special The Ballad of Smokey the Bear was made in the stop-motion Animagic process (simplistically described in the TV Guide listings as "animated mechanical puppets").
Johnny Marks, composer of the songs from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer took on this project as well. Eight brand new songs, written by Mr. Marks are heard in this saga of Smokey Bear's rise from cub-hood to his emergence as an icon for the fire-prevention campaign. “Don’t Wait” (sung by Mrs. Beaver to Mr. Beaver) is especially good and sounds like it was patterned after the Rudolph song “We’re a Couple of Misfits”. Many of the other songs are not ones worth remembering. The Theme Song was very well done, “The Ballad Of Smokey The Bear”, and musical score is credited to Maury Laws. Former NBC Executive Larry Roemer, Directed the special, as he had the Rudolph special.
The story is narrated, and occasionally sung, by no less than James Cagney, here providing the voice of Big Bear. Curiously, the "official" voice of Smokey, Jackson Weaver, is not heard, though Weaver recorded an LP that was released concurrently with this program.
The Ballad of Smokey the Bear has been out of production for a long time but you might be able to find a copy from time to time on sites such as eBay. I am fortunate to have a copy and enjoy watching it from time to time. If you find a copy I am sure you will enjoy and keep a close eye out for the escaped Gorilla at the end of the special.
Cast of The Ballad of Smokey the Bear
·         James Cagney - Big Bear
·         Barry Pearl - Smokey the Bear
·         William Marine - Turtle
·         Herbert Duncan - Beaver
·         Rose Marie Jun - Mrs. Beaver
·         George Petrie - Fox
·         Bryna Raeburn - Mama
Some of the above information was taken from an article written by Rick Goldsmith “The Ballad Of Smokey The Bear TV Special”.

Ballad of Smokey the Bear Preview (about a 3min segment)  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Halloween Fun and Safety



          OPTION #1




OPTION #3  Works well on a real or artificial pumpkin


            OPTION #4


Smokey would love to see a picture of you with your Smokey-O-Lantern. You can send them to   we may post some to our web site for others to enjoy.

Below is a coloring sheet especially made for you by Smokey. Hope you enjoy!
You can right click on it an send to a printer or save/copy into a word document or other program. Make sure your setup to print in landscape.

Setting fires on Halloween is not a prank. It is a very serious act that endangers peoples homes, their lives, and costs your community.
The message is simple. Setting fires is a criminal act. Once the fire has been set, the fire takes over.  Your neighbors and their property may not have been the intended target, but they might end up being the victims.
Our forests are dry, even with some recent rains, they are still dry and fires can spread rapidly. Historically, setting fires around Halloween has been common. You may think it is just a prank or a game. IT’S NOT ! It’s a crime against your neighbors.
Fire starters can be held liable for the full amount of all expenses incurred in fighting the wildfire AND all property damages. This could be hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Virginia’s prevention efforts have been very successful for all of the causes of fire except arson.  It all depends on the weather and the local conditions, Arson and Debris burning are our 2 top causes of wildfires. In some places Arson is the top cause, in others it’s Debris burning.  Debris fires are significant and continual educational efforts are needed to reduce their numbers.  When the public is made aware of the weather and fuel conditions, there is a significant decrease in the number of debris fires.  Records support a high incidence of debris fires during low to moderate fire conditions.  In very high to extreme conditions, the number of debris fires is minimal.  Raising the level of awareness does work with the public.  Debris fires generally start in accessible areas of someone’s property.  There is no landowner intent to have an escaped fire.  Escaped debris fires are generally reported to the local volunteer fire department or fire agency in a timely manner.  The community often pitches in to help for the safety and protection of their neighbors.

Arson fires, on the other hand, are often started in remote areas, along back roads or trails, and in multiple groupings.  Detection and reporting of the fires is delayed, resulting in larger fires upon initial attack.  The larger fires, and sheer number of starts, demands commitment of available suppression resources.  This creates opportunity for the arsonist to set other fires undetected with little fear or risk of being caught by the fire agencies.  There is no ownership taken in the fire start, therefore the public is less likely to report the fire.  Residents are reluctant to report suspicious activity for fear of reprisal or out of apathy.

·         Help your local fire department and officials by staying alert and reporting unsafe or illegal activities.

Halloween  Pet Safety Tips:
There is a lot of info out there on how to keep all your little ghosts and gobblins safe but what about about your pets safety??

Halloween is a fun and exciting holiday for people, but it can be rather scary for your pet. Here are some tips to keep your pet safe this Halloween:

1. Keep all candy out of reach of your pet. The candy is for trick-or-treaters,
not for your pet. The chocolate and wrappers can be very dangerous if ingested.
2. We all know how cute pet costumes are, but they can pose a threat to
your animal friend. Being dressed up can cause a great amount of stress
on your pet. Also, many costumes contain rubber bands and other pieces
that can be chewed off and create a hazard. If you do decide to dress
your pet up, make sure that it doesn't constrain her movement, hearing
or ability to breathe.

3. If you plan on having a party or get-together at your house, make sure to
put your pet up in a safe place unless he/she is a very social animal. Too
many strangers can be a very scary and stressful environment for your

4. During peak trick-or-treating time, you should also make sure your pet is
put up at home in a safe place. You should not bring your pet with you to
trick-or-treat and if you are staying at home, you do not want to run the
risk of your pet slipping out the front door when answering the doorbell.

5. Another important item to consider is to make sure your pet has an ID
tag or microchip in place. In the event that he/she does escape or get
lost, an ID increases the chance that your pet will be returned to you (this
includes cats too!).

6. Some other Halloween risk factors are pumpkins and decorations. If you
have a jack-o-lantern, make sure it is in a place where your pet cannot
get to it. The candle inside and the pumpkin itself can be dangerous for
your pet. Pets can easily knock over a lit candle and cause a fire, curious kittens run the risk of getting burned, and if eaten, the pumpkin may cause intestinal blockage. Keep decorations that pets could chew on, like streamers and fake spider webs and wires and cords from electric decorations out of reach. If pets chomp on Halloween decorations they could choke or become ill and, if they chew on electrical cords, they risk a potentially deadly electrical shock. Pets could also become tangled and injured by dangling cords or decorations. We do hope you all have a fun Halloween, but just remember to keep your beloved pet in mind.

If your pet has ingested something potentially harmful, please call 800-213-6680 immediately! Time is a critical factor with potential poisonings. Please be aware that due to the urgency of medical recommendations concerning poisonings and the fact that email is not the optimal venue for providing those recommendations, it is advised that you contact Pet Poison Helpline directly by phone. This telephone-based consultation service is available 24/7.Pet Poison Helpline
General information: 1-866-823-1588
Pet Poison Helpline:  1-800-213-6680

Please have a SAFE and ENJOYABLE Halloween!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Wildfire Season will soon be here in Virginia. And So You Want To Be A Firefighter!

As we are preparing for our Fall Wildfire Season which traditionally beging October 15th Many wildfires continue to burn from California to Minnesotta to Texas.

A few 911 call transcripts from Bastrop TX are posted below and are very interesting.


Pagami Wildfire: 61% Containment!

Firefighters continue to make progress on the Pagami Creek wildfire. Current estimates have the fire at about 61% contained.
A wildfire that has consumed more than 93,000 acres of Minnesota wilderness was 61 percent contained

PLEASANT VALLEY, Ariz. - The burned acreage numbers are continuing to grow on a lightning-caused northern Arizona wildfire.
Tonto National Forest officials say the so-called Tanner fire is 30 percent contained as of Thursday night after charring 6,000 acres near Young.
The fire started Aug. 20 near the peak of Armer Mountain in the Sierra Anchas.

Bastrop, TX--New numbers were released Tuesday on the Bastrop wildfire. It is 98 percent contained and cost an estimated $250 million. It is the most expensive in Texas history.
Also, for the first time, the 911 calls from that fire were released. Here's a transcript of some of the calls made by homeowners and emergency responders:
DISPATCHER: Bastrop County 911. Do you need fire, police or an ambulance?
CALLER: I've got an electrical power line down and I'm afraid it's going to spark another fire right in the area of the other one.

RESPONDER: Be advised I need deputies on 1441. We have smoke running across the road. We need to shut down 1441.
CALLER: That fire down on county road is pretty much on it's way right to our house.
CALLER: I'm standing here now and it's 100 yards away if that.
DISPATCHER: Okay, all right. I will let them know.

RESPONDER: I have done all I can do.
RESPONDER: You need to get out of the smoke. Reid, back away from the house.

RESPONDER: Josh we are abandoning this house. It's too bad. We are getting out. It sounds like a freight train coming in here.
RESPONDER: We have fires on Kelly and KC with houses burning.
RESPONDER: Chief, I don't have any more units, you are going to have to get me some more units from out of town. We don't have people. I'm protecting every house I got over here.

CALLER: It's a big fire. please send someone.
DISPATCHER: I'm going right now okay. Hold on one second and let me talk to them right quick OK?
CALLER: OK. OK. Go get in the car. Go get in the car. I am afraid. It is a big fire. My husband is still in the house, I don't know why. We have two kids, I want to get my kids.
DISPATCHER: Calm down. Take a deep breath, everything is going to be OK. I'm sending the fire department to you right now. Grab your kids, grab your husband and then leave. OK?

Fire investigators confirmed what one caller said. The Bastrop wildfire started when branches and trees fell on power lines, causing them to spark. The fire killed two people and destroyed nearly 1,600 homes.

So You Want To Be A Wildfire Fighter!
Here is some information that might help specific to VIRGINIA.

Become a WildlandFirefighter

What Does It Take To Become A Wildland Firefighter and Is It For You?

Is Firefighting for You?

You think it’s a wild adventure; it’s exciting and a big adrenaline rush. Maybe someone you know has been a firefighter. Maybe it’s become your dream. While firefighting can be all of these things, it is also dangerous and must be taken seriously. It’s not an easy task – it involves continuous training and experience. But most of all, it takes a great deal of perseverance, patience, persistence, dedication and good old-fashioned hard work to become a wildland firefighter.

Duties and Rewards

Several state and federal agencies in Virginia hire part-time wildland firefighters to assist in fire suppression duties. These firefighters must be trained and qualified in a number of tasks, as well as be able to pass physical fitness guidelines. As an entry level firefighter, you will be part of a larger organization with various command staff personnel directing and supervising your work. Wildland firefighting is often long hours of hard, dirty work in extreme fire environments. But, saving our valuable natural resources; protecting homes and public safety, and working in a cohesive team effort is extremely rewarding.


In addition to working within the Commonwealth, there may be opportunities to travel to other states. In times of large natural disasters, other states request assistance. These disasters could include wildfires, hurricanes and winter snow/ice storms. Several years ago, many firefighters from Virginia assisted with the Columbia shuttle disaster recovery efforts. Sometimes, these deployments include staying in large fire camps of a few thousand people. They may have portable showers, medical facilities and dining halls with great food. Or, you might be “spiked-out” on the mountain for an extended stay with none of the fire camp amenities. Here in Virginia, personnel are provided motel rooms if away from home. More often, you are close enough to travel back to the comforts of your own home after a short deployment on the fireline. Typically, a firefighter is on the fireline for up to 16 hours in an operational period on larger fires, but smaller fires may require only a few hours of suppression work.

“Tools” of the Firefighter

Firefighters use many “tools” to aid them in their firefighting efforts. These tools may include variations of familiar hand tools, such as a rake or shovel. Other tools have been developed over time, such as the Pulaski – a combination of an axe and a hoe. Various designs of portable water pumps have been utilized for years in wildland suppression. Larger equipment, such as bulldozers, helicopters and even airplanes for dropping water or chemical fire retardant, is also used in fighting wildland fires. Another “tool” is flame-retardant clothing that firefighters wear for their safety. Your basic training will include what these tools are used for and how to safely and properly use them. Support personnel often use computer models to predict the spread and intensity of the fire. There are many “tools,” whether large and complex or small and simple, that the Virginia firefighter is exposed to on a wildland fire.


The following are the current minimum requirements for becoming a wildland firefighter with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF):

Level 1 (VFF1- Beginner Level)

  • Complete “Ground Cover Fire Training” (8 hrs minimum)
  • Complete Fire Shelter Training and Deployment
  • Moderate Fitness Test (2-mile walk with 25 lb.-pack in 30 minutes or less)
  • Recommendation of VDOF

Level 2 (VFF2)

  • Complete Firefighter Courses (S-130/S-190/I-100/L-180)
  • Fire Shelter Training and Deployment
  • Minimum 5 wildland fire responses
  • Moderate Fitness Test
  • Recommendation of VDOF

Level 3 (VFF3)

  • Qualified as VFF2
  • Qualified as NWCG Crew Boss (same as Federal CRWB level below)
  • Arduous Fitness Test (3-mile walk with 45 lb. pack in 45 minutes or less)
  • Recommendation of VDOF

The following are the current minimum requirements for becoming a wildland firefighter with the USDA Forest Service or any other federal agency:

Level 1 (FFT2 - Beginner Level)

  • Complete Wildland Firefighter Courses(S-130/S-190/I-100/L-180)
  • Complete Fire Shelter Training and Deployment
  • Pass Arduous Fitness Test (3-mile walk with 45 lb. pack in 45 minutes or less)

Level 2 (FFT1)

  • Qualified as FFT2
  • Complete Advanced Firefighter Courses (S-131 & S-133)
  • Successful Completion of FFT1 Taskbook on Wildland Fires
  • Arduous Fitness Test

Level 3 (CRWB)

  • Qualified as FFT1
  • Complete S-230 & S-215 Courses
  • Successful Completion of CRWB Taskbook on Wildland Fires
  • Arduous Fitness Test

Contact Information

Western Region Office, Salem: 540.387.5461
Alleghany, Bath, Bedford, Bland, Botetourt, Buchanan, Carroll, Craig, Dickenson, Floyd, Franklin, Giles, Grayson, Henry, Highland, Lee, Montgomery, Patrick, Pulaski, Roanoke, Rockbridge, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise and Wythe counties

Central Region Office, Charlottesville: 434.977.5193
Albemarle, Amelia, Amherst, Appomattox, Arlington, Augusta, Buckingham, Campbell, Charlotte, Clarke, Culpeper, Cumberland, Fairfax, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Frederick, Goochland, Greene, Halifax, Loudoun, Louisa, Lunenburg, Madison, Mecklenburg, Nelson, Nottoway, Orange, Page, Pittsylvania, Powhatan, Prince Edward, Prince William, Rappahannock, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Spotsylvania, Stafford and Warren counties

Eastern Region Office, Providence Forge: 804.966.2209
Accomack, Brunswick, Caroline, Charles City, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Essex, Gloucester, Greensville, Hanover, Henrico, Isle of Wight, James City, King & Queen, King George, King William, Lancaster, Mathews, Middlesex, New Kent, Northampton, Northumberland, Prince George, Richmond, Southampton, Surry, Sussex, Westmoreland and York counties

For More Information

For more information about becoming a wildland firefighter, please contact your local Virginia Department of Forestry office or visit the agency website at

For information about federal firefighting, contact:

George Washington & Jefferson National Forest, Roanoke, VA: 540.265.5220

Shenandoah National Park, Luray, VA: 540.999.3500 #3442
US Fish & Wildlife Service, Suffolk, VA: 757.986.3480
Folks from all accross the country travel to many different states to fight wildfires and each "home unit" has their own specific requirments to becomming a wildland firefighter. Please check with your local State or Federal agency responsible for wildfire response for local requirments. Once you are "qualified nationally" in your home state you will be qualified to travel to all other states to respond to wildfires under the approval and direction of the agency that Red Carded you.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Currently, large fires are burning in eight states:

We are all to sadly getting use to seeing wildfires devistate parts of the south, the mid west and the west, BUT Minnesota?


And now MINNESOTA ...

Quite a sight to see 2 CL-215's working togther.

U.S. Wildfire season on near-record pace

Large fires burning in Minnesota, Idaho, Montana and Texas

Several large new fires burning California, Idaho and Minnesota have pushed the total acreage during this year’s wildfire season to 7.7 million acres nationwide, about 1.5 million acres above the 10-year average and close to the record season of 2006, when 8.8 million acres had burned by this time of year.

By comparison, last year’s total at this point in the fire season was 2.7 million acres; in 2009, it was 5.5 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Currently, large fires are burning in eight states: California (3), Idaho (11), Minnesota (1), Montana (8), Oklahoma (3), Oregon (6), Texas (11) and Washington (2). Visit Inciweb for updates on all fires burning currently.

The biggest single fire in the country is burning on the Superior National Forest in Minnesota, where the Pagami Creek Fire has burned across a footprint of about 94,000 acres since it started about a month ago. The fire was started by lightning in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, about 14 miles east of Ely. It’s about 11 percent contained with 565 firefighters on scene.


Minnesota    DULUTH, Minn. – Wildfire 8% Contained as of today (Sunday)  Gusty south winds materialized as expected in the area of the Pagami Creek fire Saturday, but the massive wildfire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness didn’t spread as officials feared it might.

“The fire this afternoon heated up a little along the edges of it, but we aren’t seeing much for any fire spread,” said Doug Anderson, public information officer for the firefighting effort, late on Saturday afternoon.

“On the north side, where it’s heating up a little bit, they’re hitting it now with our water-scooper aircraft just to keep it cool and keep it from spreading.

The following was taken from the Star Local News in Texas. It is a very good article deling with PREVENTION.

Wildfire Prevention and Education is one of the keys to help when wildfire conditions become high, and is something we all can do! You dont need any special training or tools just an awarness to the conditions, a willingness to follow the rules, regulations and suggestions from the experts and a big dose of common sence!


Caution urged to help prevent wildfires

By Dan Eakin,   Star Local News

Published: Saturday, September 17, 2011 2:11 PM CDT

So far, the wildfires in Texas have been many miles from McKinney.

But that doesn't mean the city shouldn't stay prepared for a sudden change in fortune.

McKinney Fire Marshal John Nickles is reminding all McKinney-area residents that wildfires could become a problem here, urging them to use extreme caution to help prevent wildfires.

Although there has been some rain in the area in the past week, drought conditions continue and a fire can still quickly spread out of control.

Nickles said there are many ways that a wildfire can be started, including seemingly harmless activities such as outdoor grilling, building campfires, pulling a trailer with a chain that could drag and cause a spark and improperly disposing of smoking materials out of car windows.

McKinney has an ordinance that prohibits outdoor burning within the city limits.

"While prohibiting open burning, this ordinance does include provisions for recreational fires," Nickles explained, "fires intended for cooking, warming or ceremonial purposes. It's important for people to think about what can cause a dangerous fire and to avoid those activities."

He said about 90 percent of wildfires in Texas are caused by people.

"The unsafe burning of leaves, brush, household trash and other debris is the top cause of wildfires in Texas," he said.

As of this past July, any worker planning to do any welding, metal cutting or other work that could potentially start a fire must get a hot work permit from the fire marshal's office, located at 2200 Taylor Burk Drive. The city will continue to require the free permits as long as the Collin County outdoor burn ban is in effect.

The McKinney Fire Marshal's Office issued a release Friday stating, "As Texas faces the most destructive wildfire season in state history, the danger rises significantly for urban and suburban areas across Texas.

"The record-breaking drought has killed vegetation such as grass, trees and shrubs, providing fuel for fires in and near cities. Gusty winds and extended record high temperatures increase the threat of wildfires."

Several wildfires have been reported in Texas within the past few weeks, including ones west of Fort Worth and southeast of Dallas.

The most devastating wildfire in the state has been in Bastrop County, in the hill country of South Texas. The wildfires there have destroyed 1,500 homes and are still burning.

In addition to homes being burned, both domestic and wild animals perished in the Bastrop County fires. Also, thousands of tall pine trees were burned in Bastrop State Park.

Bastrop County is known as "the land of the lost pines" because there are many miles between the tall pines of East Texas and those in Bastrop County."

Nickles hopes that by being extremely cautious, McKinney area residents can help make certain that such tragic fires do not occur in the city.
Remember Smokey Bear is counting on you for your help. ONLY YOU CAN !!!!