PRESS ANNOUNCEMENT - For immediate Distribution - 10/24/00

Smokey the Bear Signs will Help Warn of Fire Danger!

Fire Weather Danger Signs to be Installed
At Entrances to Southaven County Park (Yaphank)
and Brookhaven National Laboratory (Upton).

Where & When:  Official Sign Dedication on October 26, 2000 at 3:30 pm
Main Entrance to Southaven County Park
Victory Avenue, Yaphank.
(See Southaven directions here.)


Smokey the Bear fire danger signs will help get the message out to the public on fire danger as part of wildfire prevention efforts by the Central Pine Barrens Wildfire Task Force (WTF), in conjunction with the Suffolk County Parks Department and Brookhaven National Laboratory. The Suffolk County Parks Department donated the labor and materials to construct the two fire weather danger index signs that will be installed, one near the main entrance of Southaven County Park in Yaphank and the other near the entrance to Brookhaven National Laboratory, on the east side of William Floyd Parkway. Both signs will have a 5'6" Smokey the Bear wooden figure attached to a fire danger information sign that will indicate the daily fire danger level, based on local weather conditions. Each day these signs will indicate whether the potential fire danger in the area is low, moderate, high or extreme.

According to Bruce Johnson, who is the Chair for the Public Education Subcommittee, the public will see Smokey the Bear and his fire danger message and will be more aware of potential fire danger and the need to take precautions, especially during times of high and extreme fire danger. This is especially important with this past August being the 5 year anniversary of the 1995 Rocky Point and Sunrise wildfires, where extreme fire danger from extended periods of drought resulted in large catastrophic wildfires that consumed thousands of acres of pine barrens, forcing many to evacuate.

High and extreme fire danger levels could result in public land managers having to take actions such as posting restrictions on the public's use of certain park areas and possibly prohibiting campfires. Last year the drought levels were higher than in 1995, but because preemptive action was taken such as closing public parks during extreme fire danger levels, increasing patrols and banning open fires, no major wildfires resulted, according to Bill Sickles from Suffolk County Parks Department.

Information from weather stations in Eastport and at Wertheim Wildlife Refuge in Shirley is compiled and used to determine the daily fire danger rating that will be posted on these signs, according to John Urevich, Chair of the Weather Information Subcommittee. The weather information is compiled by Dr. Robert Parris from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Long Island Complex at the Wertheim Wildlife Refuge who transmits the fire danger level rating to the Suffolk County Fire Rescue and Emergency Services (SC FRES) in Yaphank. SC FRES is the key link in getting this information to the local fire service community.

For more information contact:  Bruce Johnson, Public Education Committee Chair and Riverhead Town Fire Marshal, at (631)727-3200, extension 209,  or Judy Jakobsen, Pine Barrens Commission Staff, at (631)563-0306.