By Susan Motander
Next Tuesday at the Monrovia City Council Meeting Fire Chief Brad Dover will introduce the new “spokesbear” for his department. Samson, the iconic symbol of Monrovia’s Wildland Urban Interface, has returned as the symbol of safety for the Fire Department in its outreach to the community.
In the early 1990s the original Samson became famous when local resident Gary Potter filmed him leisurely taking a dip in his hot tub on Norumbega Drive. When the press caught the story it went viral and Samson became a celebrity. Unfortunately, he became a real “nuisance” bear—meaning that he had become too dependent on living off of trashcans and avocado trees. State Fish and Wildlife eventually captured him.
Samson was scheduled to be euthanized as he had bursitis (hence the tendency to take those dips in the hot tub) and only one tooth and was deemed unfit for re-release into the wild. A public outcry, lead largely by Monrovians including then City Councilmember Mary Wilcox, resulted in Governor Pete Wilson sparing the bear in the only death sentence he would commute during his tenure.
The Orange County Zoo offered to take our bear and children throughout the state raised the funds to build a compound for the “Hot Tub Bear.” An Orange County pool and spa company even donated a water feature for the bear and an avocado company donated a case a week of their product for the bear with a taste for the fruit. Our famous bear lived out his retirement in comfort.
Now he is back thanks to Monrovia Fire and Rescue. He will be promoting the fire safety messages of the National Fire Protection Association in appearances at local elementary schools. For example this year the message is: “Not every hero wears a cape, plan and practice your escape.”
Like other members of Monrovia Fire and Rescue, Samson will wear a Monrovia Fire Department Uniform complete with helmet, unlike his more famous counterpart Smokey the Bear who sports only overalls and a ranger’s hat. Samson will appear at many Monrovia events over the course of the year especially at the annual pancake breakfast in May. Look for him.