Crime

Smokey Bear went missing. His return reminded of how wildfire communities united.

A photo of the Smokey Bear sign that was stolen from the side of N.C. 9 during the final week of 2017 was recovered on New Year’s Day, 2018.
A photo of the Smokey Bear sign that was stolen from the side of N.C. 9 during the final week of 2017 was recovered on New Year’s Day, 2018. BROAD RIVER FIRE AND RESCUE

A firefighting unit is praising its community supporters after a Smokey Bear sign that went missing sometime in the final week of December was recovered on New Year’s Day.

The 6-foot-tall metal Smokey and fire danger indicator were taken from the side of N.C. 9 sometime between Dec. 28 and Dec. 30, the Broad River Fire and Rescue Department said on Facebook.

The department acknowledged the sign’s rescue posed no danger to lives or properties. But the firefighters said it reminded them of the support they received in the fall of 2016, as wildfires scorched thousands of acres of their turf in Western North Carolina.

“This was more than just about a stolen Smokey Bear,” the Broad River Fire and Rescue Department said in a Facebook post. “A little over a year ago we faced the largest fire we had ever seen and over the course of a few weeks we witnessed the out pouring of support from good people across the nation and watched as communities came together like never before.

“The same thing was witnessed again. It’s humbling to see so many come together and support one another even for what may be so minor.”

Women in the fire department’s auxiliary group raised $1,200 to have the structure installed. The same women spent days caring for firefighters and residents during the Party Rock Fire near Lake Lure.

A woman notified officials after finding Smokey leaning against a tree in the Shope Creek trail area Monday morning.

The fire danger indicator remains missing but can be replaced, the fire department said.

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