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New Smokey Bear Balloon Unveiled in Black Hills

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CUSTER, S.D. – A brand new Smokey Bear hot air balloon will fly at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to help focus attention on fire prevention in the Black Hills. The original Smokey Bear balloon crashed at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico in October 2004 and was destroyed, an event widely covered by national media outlets. Private and public partners including the Friends of Smokey Bear Balloon and the Forest Service rebuilt the balloon this year. Pilot Bill Chapel took delivery of the Balloon this week and is on his way to South Dakota for a week of related events. The balloon is here representing the interagency partners of the South Dakota Wildfire Council’s fire prevention committee and will fly at Sturgis on Monday morning and Custer on Tuesday morning. Media is invited and details will be announced on Friday. In addition, the Smokey cold air balloon and fire prevention trailer will be parked at Pactola Visitor Center at Pactola Reservoir beginning Monday morning through Friday at noon. The trailer carries fire prevention materials and will be staffed by volunteers. For more forest information, visit the Black Hills National Forest Newsroom at