A longtime U.S. Forest Service employee on Mount Charleston has received a national award for his fire prevention outreach efforts over the past two decades.
Fire Prevention Technician Ray Johnson will be presented with the 2017 Bronze Smokey Bear Award at a ceremony at the Kyle Canyon fire station on June 15.
“Everybody likes to get a pat on the back,” Johnson said. “I’m a little bit overwhelmed by the response.”
Johnson has worked in fire prevention and information at Spring Mountains National Recreation Area for 18 years. Before that, he spent six years in a similar post for the National Park Service at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
During his career, Johnson has given wildfire safety presentations to nearly 100,000 kids, including about 8,000 first- and second-graders at more than 50 Southern Nevada public schools over the past two years alone.
The 56-year-old has also delivered the fire prevention message in countless television, radio and newspaper interviews and worked with Spanish-language media outlets to reach the local Hispanic community.
The U.S. Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council sponsor the Smokey Bear Awards, which have been handed out annually since 1957.
The bronze award is the highest honor given for wildfire prevention work at the state level. No more than 10 such awards are handed out each year.
The website for the Smokey Bear Awards lists only one past winner from the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, which includes the Spring Mountains: Larry Benham, who won a bronze award in 2008.
“In the world of wildfire prevention, receiving a Smokey Bear award is a huge honor,” Carrie Thaler, fire management officer for Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, said in a written statement. “Ray has been instrumental over the last several years helping to get fire prevention messaging out to communities across Southern Nevada. He has helped to foster several generations of land stewards, and his work has helped prevent countless wildfires.”
Contact Henry Brean at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0350. Follow @refriedbrean on Twitter.
The Smokey Bear Awards
They’re like the Academy Awards for wildfire prevention advocates, complete with a statuette that resembles the famous Oscar — if Oscar were a bear.
The annual Smokey Bear Awards date back to 1957. Their titular bear goes back even further.
Here’s the history according to Smokey’s official website: “Created in 1944, the Smokey Bear Wildfire Prevention campaign is the longest-running public service advertising campaign in U.S. history. As one of the world’s most recognizable characters, Smokey’s image is protected by U.S. federal law and is administered by the USDA Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council.”
The bear’s original catchphrase was a little clunky: “Smokey Says: Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires.” In 1947, it became “Remember … Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires.”
In 2001, it was updated again to “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires” to encourage safety and care in all outdoor settings, not just forests.