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Smokey brings fire-prevention message to children at Putnam library

By Ben Calwell, Metro Reporter
BEN CALWELL | Putnam Review
Dylan Bevins has his picture taken with Smokey Bear, who visited the Putnam County Public Library’s main branch on Tuesday, April 18. During spring break week, the library hosted a series of “Earth Week” activities to coincide with Earth Day on April 22.
Tom Withrow, a fire forester with the West Virginia Division of Forestry, joins Smokey Bear for a talk on forest fire prevention at the main branch of the Putnam County Public Library. The event was part of Earth Week activities at the library.
Smokey Bear waves to an appreciative young audience at the Putnam County Public Library’s main branch.

It was Earth Day all week at the Putnam County Public Library in Hurricane.

During the recent spring break week, the library’s main branch hosted a variety of Earth Day-related activities for students. On April 18, a familiar figure showed up: Smokey Bear.

“This year, we decided to do a concentrated spring break programming. April 22 is Earth Day, so we decided to make it ‘Earth Week.’ All of our programming this week has that theme running through it,” said Megan Tarbett, Putnam County Public Library manager.

Smokey Bear was accompanied by Tom Withrow, a fire forester with the West Virginia Division of Forestry.

Withrow introduced Smokey to a room full of excited children, and he also gave a short talk about fire prevention. He also brought a selection of tools that firefighters use when trying to control forest fires.

Withrow tailors his presentations based on the ages of his audiences.

“I’ll talk about how fires get started; it depends on the age group how much I say. If it’s just little fellows, we’ll keep it simple. [Smokey Bear] will be the big attraction,” Withrow said.

Withrow, who resides in Mason County, said current conditions make it easy for forest fires to start.

“We’re right in the middle of spring fire season right now, but if we get all the rain that’s projected, and, as warm as it is, I’d say most of the fire danger will be over in about a week perhaps. It’s greening up fast out there, and, once you get the forest floor shaded like that, it makes it a lot harder to catch fire,” he said.

When Smokey Bear entered the room, the children applauded their approval. After waving to his audience, he listened as a librarian read a story to them about Smokey Bear.

“We’ve got some activity sheets for them, and they can get their pictures taken with Smokey,” Tarbett said.

Other events during Earth Week at the library included a traveling theatre company presentation on recycling titled “Upcycled Cinderellas.”

“They talked about recycling and using old things to make new things,” she said.

For teenagers, the Putnam library hosted a hands-on activity focusing on “eco-systems.”

As part of that, “they made seed bombs.”

Seed balls, or seed bombs, are a great way to plant seeds of all sorts in places you can’t take care of closely, such as meadows, roadside strips and stream banks.

Rounding out Earth Week at the library were storytime activities, a game night and a “Pirates and Princess” party.

“Friday, we’re doing an all-day open house with crafts,” Tarbett said.

For more information about the Putnam County Library, phone the main branch at 304-757-7308, or visit or the library’s Facebook page.


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