Deffibaugh receives Smokey Bear award from Forest Service
By Joe Reavis
Princeton Assistant Fire Chief and Mayor pro tem Steve Deffibaugh won another award recently for his work to spread the message of wildfire prevention.
Deffibaugh, a seasonal resource specialist for Texas A&M Forest Service, was awarded the Bronze Smokey Bear Award last month during the Southern Group of State Foresters annual meeting in San Antonio.
“When they were telling about the award, I really thought it was going to the agency and I was there because I had contributed to Smokey programs for the agency, which I am very proud to do,” Deffibaugh said. “It was not until I mentioned it to Tom [TFS director and state forester] about the agency receiving it that he said ‘No, this award is yours.’ To say the least, I was speechless and it really brought me to tears thinking of what my Uncle Homer would think.”
The personal connection between Deffibaugh and Smokey Bear made this year’s win unique. His great uncle, Homer C. Pickens, was appointed by the New Mexico Game and Fish Department to assist with a bear cub rescued from a wildfire—this cub became the original Smokey Bear. This close link drives Deffibaugh’s passion to promote Smokey’s prevention message and helps his audience understand the consequences of wildfires on wildlife and communities.
“Steve has a passion for promoting wildfire prevention and delivering Smokey Bear’s message,” Nick Harrison, TFS Firewise coordinator and nominator of Deffibaugh said. “Combining his passion and the ability to carry on a legacy started by his great uncle, the Bronze Smokey Bear Award is a great way to recognize Steve’s lifelong prevention efforts.”
Deffibaugh crafted fire prevention programs based on specific human-caused factors. He targeted six at-risk communities in North Central Texas to initiate his programs and since its inception in 2007 human-caused wildfires decreased 12 percent in those areas.
The Bronze Smokey Bear Award is one of three awards given annually to recipients recognizing their outstanding, sustained service of at least two years with significant program impact to wildfire prevention. The awards are given out on three levels—gold for national, silver for multi-state and bronze for state level.
“All employees within Texas A&M Forest Service are on Smokey’s team helping deliver his timeless message of Only You Can Prevent Wildfires,” Mitigation and Prevention Department Head Bruce Woods said. “Preventing wildfires is key in preventing damage and destruction from wildfires.”
Deffibaugh was also instrumental in planning and participating in several wildfire prevention events throughout the state, including a hot air balloon festival, several movie events in North Texas during the release of Disney’s Planes: Fire and Rescue and appearing as Deffi the Wildland Fire Clown at Smokey’s 70th birthday bash.
Through Deffibaugh’s continuous efforts, over a three-year period he planned and coordinated 39 Smokey Bear prevention programs which impacted over 23,000 people.
“I am proud to work for TFS. Texas A&M Forest Service has given me the opportunity and the platform to promote Smokey far and wide in our great State of Texas on behalf of TFS, but also allows me to keep the legacy of my great uncle alive,” Deffibaugh said.
Since 1970, TFS employees and volunteers have received 10 Smokey Bear Awards and the agency has nominated three partner organizations for the award.