Breaking News
More () »

Knoxville Breaking News, Weather, Traffic, Sports | WBIR.com

'It's a message that needs to be heard' | Smokey Bear to soar above East Tennessee

The Smokey Bear Balloon will go to great heights to spread a message of wildfire prevention.
Credit: Lakeside of the Smokies Balloon Fest

WHITE PINE, Tenn. — Dry weather. Record-breaking heat. Falling leaves.

It's a recipe for increased fire risk, but Smokey the Bear is flying to remind East Tennesseans that wildfires are often preventable. 

To help spread the famous mascot's message of wildfire prevention, Lakeside of the Smokies Balloon Fest has partnered with The Resort at Governor’s Crossing to bring Smokey Bear Balloon to White Pine, Tennessee on Oct. 26 and 27.  

Don Collier, president of The Resort at Governor’s Crossing in Pigeon Forge, is sponsoring the Smokey Bear Balloon.

“It’s a message that needs to be heard,” Collier said. 

Collier witnessed the Great Smoky Mountains wildfires in 2016. He said he wanted to bring Smokey's message to all Tennesseans.

RELATED: Tennessee burn permit season begins early

According to the National Park Service, humans cause nearly 85% of wildland fires in the United States. Smokey's message, "only you can prevent wildfires," is an attempt by the U.S. Forest Service to raise awareness about the fires and what people can do to stop them.

The Smokey Bear Balloon tours the United States every year, especially during high-risk months like October. 

According to Friends of Smokey Bear Balloon, it takes a village to raise the 97-foot balloon. It requires 12 to 17 people working together to get the balloon ready to fly.

RELATED: Smokey Bear celebrates 75th birthday

Volunteers from the Tennessee Division of Forestry and USDA Forest Service will help set up, chase and take down the giant bear.

Both the National Forest Service and the Tennessee Division of Forestry will attend the Lakeside of the Smokies Balloon Fest. They said they will provide educational materials on wildfire prevention to attendees.