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Giving Smokey the Bear a much needed repair

Eagle project gives new life to area fire danger signs


Last updated 10/31/2019 at 10:27am

Sometimes, what appears to be the path of least resistance turns out to be exactly the opposite.

Cheney High School senior and Boy Scout Seth Wilcox found that out firsthand when searching about for his Eagle project. The state Department of Natural Resources had contacted his father, who is also a Troop 356 Scoutmaster, with a project that involved replacing two Smokey the Bear fire danger signs at a pair of Spokane County Fire District 3 fire stations — one at Tyler and one on Grove Road in Marshall.

Seth Wilcox said he didn’t see any other projects around at the time, and the locations of these were convenient for him, so he signed up.

That was 2017, and that’s when things began to get challenging.

Wilcox said the DNR provided him with the cut outs for the Smokey the Bear figure and the fire danger level signs. As for how to build the sign, the agency didn’t exactly have one.

“They had one, but it was really badly copied,” Wilcox said. “Just a picture, pretty much.”

To compensate, Wilcox measured the fire danger sign along State Route 904 several times to get the dimensions figured out. DNR provided a materials list, but Wilcox said some of them weren’t the proper measurements, so he had to make adjustments.

At one point in the process the agency turned their end of the project over to Spokane County Fire District 3, since the signs were on their stations. Wilcox said he worked with Deputy Chief Dan Crawford and Division Chief Dustin Flock on arrangements, including financing.

“I didn’t have to raise much money,” Wilcox said. “They brought it (project funding) up at an officers meeting and they voted for it.”

District 3 gave Wilcox a check covering $500 of the project’s $550 total cost. He began the project by routering the lettering on the bottom portions of each sign — something that took the most time because he had to do approximately 144 letters.

Once Wilcox finished the prep work, other Scouts in his troop did the rest of the work, beginning with painting the signs. Wilcox made adjustments to some of the lettering, and once finished the signs were ready for installation.

Wilcox said installation ended up taking place on two separate days, June 30 and July 2, due to difficulty at the Marshall station where the ground was rockier than expected. Hole-digging took most of the day, and was finally accomplished with power tools.

Eighteen volunteers – including nine Scouts – helped with installation, digging holes, mixing and pouring concrete and other duties. Overall, Wilcox said the project took 275 hours to accomplish, a bit longer than the 3-4 months he originally thought it would take.

“It was a bigger thing to bite off than I think he realized,” his mother Lisa said. “But it was good, it was a good process.”

Seth Wilcox said because the project took longer than expected he was able to gain a sense of what it takes to persevere in an endeavor. Part of that was driven by his desire to obtain the Eagle rank.

“I started it, I thought I should finish it,” Wilcox said.

The Blackhawks senior, who also competes in football, boys swimming and track and field, said he plans on attending Washington State University after graduation and majoring in bio-engineering, with a desire to go to medical school. His Eagle project has helped him leave something of physical value to the community.

“I wanted a project I would be able to look at and be proud of,” he said.

John McCallum can be reached at


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