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‘Flat Smokey’ Character focuses on teaching fire safety

Flat Smokey can teach kids about fire safety in a fun way. The character is modeled after the fictional character Flat Stanley. (Graphic courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

MARQUETTE — With warmer temperatures and increased fire danger, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is getting a little help from a familiar face — Smokey Bear — to boost the public’s fire safety acumen. But the department is sharing the 75-year-old icon in a new way through a character named Flat Smokey.

Flat Smokey is inspired by the “Flat Stanley” children’s book series by Jeff Brown.

In the books, a young boy, Stanley Lambchop, is squashed to a half-inch thickness when a bulletin board falls on him while he’s sleeping. However, he makes the best of his flatness, and, according to Amazon, slides under doors, mails himself across the United States and flies like a kite.

Kids can download the Flat Smokey template at Michigan.gov, print it on stiff paper such as cardstock or paste onto cardboard and color.

Youngsters can take pictures and videos of Flat Smokey with their family and friends as they practice fire safety with cookouts, campfires, fireworks and more, and then share using the hashtags #FlatSmokey and #PreventWildfires.

The DNR pointed out that nine out of 10 wildfires in Michigan are caused by people. Taking simple precautions and using effective fire safety practices can save lives and protect property, wildlife and the environment. When burning, always have a water source, shovel and metal bucket nearby, never leave a fire unattended, and always thoroughly douse a fire until it is extinguished.

Fire safety tips are available at Michigan.gov/PreventWildfires.

A few are:

≤ Getting permission to burn, such as a burn permit.

≤ Keeping a fire small and manageable – no larger than 3 feet high and 3 feet wide.

≤ Not burning on windy days or during dry weather.

≤ Composting or recycling yard waste instead of burning.

≤ Keeping a fire at least 10 feet away from logs, stumps or debris, and making sure no branches are hanging overhead.

Online map launched

As more sectors of Michigan’s economy begin to reopen for business, state health officials urge the public to continue following guidelines that help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. That means keeping social gatherings to no more than 10 people, limiting extensive travel and practicing social distancing, even outside when it might not seem staying six feet apart is necessary.

The DNR recently announced a new online map that helps people find boating, fishing, hiking and other outdoor recreation opportunities close to home.

The Your Local Outdoors website, located at midnr.maps.arcgis.com, is a collection of state-managed outdoor recreation destinations: state parks, trails, boat launches and family-friendly fishing waters. Users can enter their zip codes to see local recreation options.

Forest input welcomed

The DNR is asking for public input on its plans for Michigan’s 4 million acres of state forest. However, due to COVID-19 precautions, people can comment online instead of the previous format of face-to-face open houses.

Interested individuals may go to Michigan.gov/ForestInput, click on the interactive map and zoom in on the area of interest, after which more details will appear.

Sections of forests known as “compartments” under review for work to be performed in 2022 are highlighted in bright green. Clicking anywhere within the compartment will allow a pop-up screen to appear with more information.

Comments may be submitted by email or by telephone appointment with a DNR staff member to discuss comments or concerns during specific time periods. Locally, residents may contact Kristen Matson with the Gwinn Forest Management Unit at 906-346-9201 from Aug. 18 through Sept. 17.

Final decisions will be made at DNR staff meetings known as compartment reviews. The virtual Gwinn review will take place on Oct. 8.

COVID-19 storytelling

The Michigan History Center is partnering with the Detroit Free Press to document the impact of the coronavirus emergency on Michiganders through stories by collecting photographs, videos and audio files from their daily lives.

People interested in adding their stories about how they’re living through the event and helping future generations understand it should visit Michigan.gov/MHCStories.

Christie Mastric can be reached at cbleck@miningjournal.net.

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