Smokey the Bear is needed in urban areas like Chicago

Smokey the Bear is present on billboards in Chicago – and he is needed. According to the Chicago Tribune several days ago:

Helene Cleveland, fire prevention program manager for the U.S. Forest Service, said wildfires are more common in the Chicago area than people think…

Tom Wilson, forest protection program manager for Illinois, said a study by the Chicago Wilderness organization noted more than 1,500 wildfires from January 2005 to March 2011 in the six-county Chicago area.

There are plenty of houses adjacent to forests and grassland areas that have potential to catch fire, Wilson said.

Such a message might seem out of place in Chicago but there are plenty of urban areas that are more visibly affected by wildfires more frequently: Los Angeles and other cities in the American Southwest or the fires currently outside of Sydney, Australia. Chicago might not see fires like this but there is still plenty of open land near the metropolitan area or within it as part of forest preserves and other entities.

These Smokey the Bear billboards are also a reminder of the relationship between cities and nature. The average Chicago street  might appear to have little nature beyond a few trees and a few small animals. Yet, cities can’t quite get away completely from nature, whether it is dealing with wildfires, water and flooding issues, responding to natural disasters, or the limited exposure children have to the natural world in books.

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