Sunday, August 10, 2014

Smokey Bear is 70!

Smokey Bear
Smokey Bear greets an admirer at the Pere Marquette Trail opening (photo by JHY)

from a news release of the Minnesota DNR, and other sources.

Smokey Bear’s message “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires” is as relevant today as it was 70 years ago when Smokey first became a champion of wildfire prevention. Smokey turned 70, yesterday, on August Aug. 9.

Smokey Bear is one of the most well-known symbols in the United States. An amazing 96 percent of U.S. adults recognize Smokey Bear and 70 percent are able to recall Smokey’s tagline without prompting. He ranks near Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus for image recognition.

Since 1944, Smokey has told kids and adults that they can make a difference in preventing wildfires. His is the longest-running public service campaign in history. His fire safety lessons have helped reduce forest fires. The average number of acres lost to wildfire nationwide has decreased from 22 million acres in 1944 to an average of 6.7 million acres today.

Yet, wildfires still harm public health and safety, destroy homes and property, and cost millions of dollars annually in firefighting.

As the knowledge of the need for some fire to keep forests healthy has increased, the only revision in Smokey's message has been to change "Only you can prevent forest fires," to "Only you can prevent wildfires." He has been heard to occasionally make other statements, but this is one focused bear.

In 1950, a bear cub was rescued from a tree after a fire in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico. Smokey's living symbol was found. The cub was nursed back to health and spent the rest of his life (d. 1976) in the National Zoo in Washington, DC. He received so much fan mail, sometimes 13,000 letters a week, that he was given his own zip code.

Help Smokey celebrate 70 years of fire prevention by being careful with fire at all times.

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