Ashley Melvin, the Delaware Forest Service’s education specialist who directs its Smokey Bear fire prevention program, received a Gold Smokey Award at an annual meeting of state foresters in Ohio.

The award was presented to the Mid-Atlantic Fire Compact‘s education committee, of which Delaware is a member. The compact is comprised of seven states including Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

In wildfire prevention, there is no greater honor than to receive a Smokey Bear award, especially the national Gold Smokey Award. These awards are reserved for people or organizations that provide sustained, outstanding service, with program impact, in the wildfire prevention arena. Honorees demonstrate innovation, creativity, commitment and passion for wildfire prevention.

The Mid-Atlantic Fire Compact’s education committee meets once or twice a year to create prototypes that help with forest fire prevention education. The group has created bandannas, large Smokey Prevention Plinko Games for events, large puzzles for children to use at events, compiled a three-DVD set of old Smokey Bear videos, songs and artwork and fire danger signs with Smokey Bear. The group also coordinated an international multi-compact workshop in Mystic, Connecticut.

Smokey Bear will celebrate his 75th birthday in 2019. To honor the occasion, the compact created a special 16-page supplement for the Highlights children’s magazine that will appear in early 2019. The issue will be delivered to subscribers in all seven states, with an additional printing of 168,000 copes for standalone use. Veteran educator Fred Turck of Virginia, the only person to earn the coveted Gold Smokey twice for his work in fire prevention education, noted that each item takes about a year to move from concept to production.

Under the guidance of Melvin, the trainer-educator who received a Bronze Smokey in 2009, Smokey Bear has become one of the Delaware Forest Service’s more successful educational programs. In the past several years, the Delaware Forest Service has provided an average of 90 Smokey Bear fire education programs per year to about 8,250 students — almost 75 percent of the first-graders in the entire state.