CHARLESTON — If you visit the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve this week, you’ll have a little competition for space.
For the ninth year in a row, the Society of American Foresters is sponsoring its Natural Resource Days program at the reserve’s interpretive center. The program, which partners federal and state forestry and wildlife experts with local fifth-graders, is the only one of its kind in the area.
Eva Bailey, a BLM road manager and program coordinator, said the Society of American Foresters sponsored the event after the Menasha Corp. ceased a similar program. The program includes students from both Coos Bay and North Bend schools.
“We like fifth-graders because they’re still impressionable,” Bailey said.
The program is broken down into multiple stations located across the reserve’s interpretive center campus. Station workshops include tree measuring and topography — all conducted under the supervision of experienced volunteers.
Tuesday afternoon, Bailey and Mike Pope, a fire management officer, explained the basics of wildland firefighting to North Bend students.
They brought along one of the agency’s fire engines to enhance the demonstration.
The BLM contracts out most of its local firefighting duties to the Coos Forest Protective Association, which will man the firefighting station later in the week.
Students giggled as Pope helped them spray dummy wooden flames with the truck’s firehose. Later, they crawled into fire shelters.
Despite the fun, the event is intended to be educational. In the midst of the excitement, keeping 10-year-olds focused often proved as challenging as ever.
“What does Smokey say,” Pope asked encouragingly. One student seemed to have the answer.
“Aw! I forgot.”
Reporter Thomas Moriarty knows that Smokey says, “Only YOU can prevent wildfires!” He can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty.