LANCASTER — John Accardi will be the presenter during the celebration of Smokey Bear's 75th birthday at Weeks State Park on Thursday, Aug. 8. And there will be Smokey's birthday cake for all to enjoy.

Smokey Bear's story begins with World War II. On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor, and the following spring, they fired shells that exploded on an oil field very close to the Los Padres National Forest. Fear grew among Americans that more attacks would ignite wildfires and bring a disastrous loss of life and destruction of property. It was then that the protection of forests became a matter of national importance.

In the spring of 1950, in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico a wildfire broke out. The first crew to respond discovered a major wildfire sweeping along the ground between the trees, driven by a strong wind. Soon about 30 firefighters were caught directly in the path of the fire storm; along with a lone bear cub, who took refuge in a tree.

The crew survived the blaze by lying face down on a rock slide for over an hour as the fire burned past them. The cub too survived but with badly burned paws and hind legs. He was placed with the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

Ranger Jason Hutger with the Division of Forests and Lands will be greeting patrons in the active fire lookout from 6-7 p.m.

This program will be in the Great Room of the Summit Lodge of Weeks State Park and will begin at 7 p.m.

People are welcome to arrive early and bring a picnic supper, or climb the fire tower for one of the best views north of the notches. Weeks State park is located on the east side of Route 3, about 2 miles south of Lancaster. Carpooling is strongly suggested if possible for the events. The park is expecting a lot of interest in this birthday celebration.

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