2 Smokey Bear recipients call Eastern Region states home

This year, two of the five national Smokey Bear award recipients come from Eastern Region states.

Kent Nelson, a forest ranger specialist with the Maine Forest Service, won a silver award, and Doug Miner, a forest ranger captain with the New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands, won a bronze award. Both are members of the Northeast Forest Fire Protection Compact.

The prestigious Smokey Bear awards are presented nationally each year to people and organizations that provide sustained, outstanding service, with significant program impact, in the wildfire prevention arena. Award winners are jointly selected from a pool of nominated candidates by representatives from the National Association of State Foresters, the USDA Forest Service and the Advertising Council.

Gold, silver and bronze awards recognize impact at the national, regional or state level, respectively.

Maine Gov. Janet T. Mills praised Nelson and emphasized that wildfire prevention must be taken very seriously in Maine, which is the nation’s most heavily forested state.

“It is why Maine Forest Service Rangers, like Ranger Specialist Kent Nelson, are so important,” Mills said. “Their efforts, along with those of fire departments across Maine, are critical to keeping our state safe.”

A letter supporting Miner’s nomination described him as “a tremendous leader, [who] takes the time to educate people and will go out of his way to help them succeed. He leads with a humble nature that gives confidence and pride to those he guides, teaches and promotes.”

Brad Simpkins, an Eastern Region cooperative fire specialist and former New Hampshire State Forester, knows firsthand of Miner’s own fire prevention accomplishments in New Hampshire, the nation’s second-most-forested state. Simpkins said Miner worked tirelessly in the past several years, organizing a variety of public events, including a Smokey Bear balloon appearance, to raise public awareness in fire prevention.

In all, three bronze and two silver awards were given this year. No gold awards were handed out. The other recipients are Anna Henderson of Montana, Anne Nelson of Alaska and Frank Riley of Georgia.

All award recipients are invited to a September conference in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, in conjunction with a National Association of State Foresters meeting. The award itself is a Smokey Bear statuette about 8-10 inches tall with gold, silver or bronze finishes depending on the respective award level. Award recipients also get a lapel pin and a certificate.

The Smokey Bear awards were started in the 1950s to promote and reward exemplary fire prevention efforts. President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave out the first awards in 1958.

Established in 1944, the Smokey Bear wildfire prevention campaign is the longest-running public awareness campaign in American history. Its important fire prevention message, “Only you can prevent wildfires,” has changed over the years, but its goal of preventing wildfires through public awareness and support has never wavered.

The 2021 Northeast Compact Forest Fire Awareness Week was April 18-24, and the 2021 National Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 3-9.