Most adults and many kids recognize Smokey Bear from a campaign to educate the public about fire safety. Smokey was the central symbol for a forest fire prevention campaign started in 1944 by the USDA Forest Service and the Ad Council.
Released later that year, the first poster depicted a bear pouring a bucket of water on a campfire. Smokey Bear’s slogan, “Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires!” was later introduced in 1947. According to the Smokey Bear website, this slogan was updated in 2001 to “Only YOU Can Prevent Wildfires!”
Just a few years later, the public met the real Smokey. According to the Smokey Bear website, in 1950 a young bear cub climbed a tree to escape a burning forest in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico. The bear was still badly burned. The firefighters who retrieved him nicknamed him Smokey. News about this bear quickly spread, and he became a living symbol for wildfire prevention. The bear later came to live at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.
The real Smokey Bear died in 1976 and was buried in Capitan, New Mexico, in what is now called Smokey Bear Historical Park.
The fictional Smokey character still plays a big role in wildfire prevention. According to the Ad Council, Smokey Bear and his slogan are recognized in the United States by 95 percent of adults and 77 percent of children. The Smokey Bear website offers tips on campfire safety, backyard burning, equipment maintenance and other fire safety suggestions. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen this iconic bear, check out the website.
Like many summers, this year has an increased risk for wildfire. Coors Banquet will again donate a portion of proceeds from the sale of any case or case equivalent of beer in draft, bottles or cans to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. This group provides support to wildland firefighters and their families. Enjoy a beverage today and help support this worthy cause!