Photos: Smokey's message helps

The Enterprise –– Michael Koff

The bear of the hour: Smokey Bear came out to greet kids on Monday morning at the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center in Albany to help teach them about preventing forest fires and fire safety. “Smokey Bear Day provides a family-friendly opportunity to learn why fire is an important natural component of this globally-rare eco system,” said Christopher Hawver, the preserve commission’s executive director in a statement.

The Enterprise –– Michael Koff

Practicing to be a woodland firefighter, a ball-capped boy, center, with his sister to his left and mother behind him, squirts water from an Indian tank towards targets with guidance from an Albany Pine Bush volunteer. He was timed during the prescribed-fire obstacle course at the annual Smokey Bear Day on Oct. 13 at the Discovery Center in Albany. Since 1991, the Albany Pine Bush Preserve commission has managed more than 1,400 acres with prescribed fire, helping the endangered Karner blue butterfly and other species to recover.

The Enterprise –– Michael Koff

Tools of the trade: Two kids in coonskin caps listen Monday morning to a firefighter, left, explain the equipment he uses when a prescribed burn is needed at the Pine Bush. Natural wildfires for centuries maintained the pitch pine and scrub oak barrens; now burns are planned to keep the habitat stable. The most recent burn was on Oct. 10. The display, outside the discovery Center,, was part of Smokey Bear Day.