Smokey Bear Turns 75

Anniversary comes as scientists warn the world’s forests are vulnerable amid climate change

 

FILE – In this Saturday, Aug. 16, 2104 file photo, Jedidiah Barnes, 3, of Cape Coral hugs a Smokey Bear costumed actor at the Koreshan State Historic Site in Estero, Fla., during celebrations for the 70th birthday of the character. The icon of the longest-running public service campaign in the U.S., was born on Aug. 9, 1944, when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed that a fictional bear would be the symbol for a fire prevention campaign. (AP Photo/Naples Daily News, Corey Perrine)/Naples Daily News via AP)

 

CAPITAN, N.M. (AP) — There will be 75 candles on his birthday cake and Smokey Bear still hopes none of them start a forest fire.

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The icon of the longest-running public service campaign in the U.S. is being honored with birthday parties around the country this week, a celebration that includes a social media campaign to share his safety message.

“My friends at the U.S. Forest Service and National Association of State Foresters are counting on #OnlyYou to send in your videos to celebrate my 75th birthday!” Smokey urges residents on his official Facebook page, operated by the agency and nonprofit group. “Take a video singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me, your pal Smokey Bear and use the hashtag #SingForSmokey.”

Besides the social media campaign, the U.S. Forest Service and National Association of State Foresters are using voices of CBS “Late Night” host Stephen Colbert, Al Roker of NBC’s “Today Show” and comedian Jeff Foxworthy with an animated talking Smokey on online videos.

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Smokey promoters also have shared vintage fire prevention videos like the 1968 commercial with the bear and “Twilight Zone” creator Rod Sterling.

FILE – In this Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017 file photo, a giant Smokey Bear statue greets children at the Fire Department Open House at Fire Station One in Kinston, N.C. The icon of the longest-running public service campaign in the U.S., was born on Aug. 9, 1944, when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed that a fictional bear would be the symbol for a fire prevention campaign. (Janet S. Carter/Daily Free Press via AP)

Smokey Bear was born on Aug. 9, 1944, when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed that a fictional bear would be the symbol for a fire prevention campaign. At the time, federal officials feared the nation’s national forest could become targets as the country was deep into World War II.

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Six years later, firefighters found a cub with severely burned paws and hind legs in the aftermath of a blaze in New Mexico’s Capitan Mountains. The cub was named Smokey Bear after a New York Assistant Fire Chief, “Smokey” Joe Martin.

When the bear died in 1976, his remains were buried in what is now Smokey Bear Historical Park in Capitan, — not far from where he was found.

This week, the Gila National Forest in Silver City, New Mexico, and Wingfield Park in Ruidoso will hold community birthday parties for the bear. Parties also are scheduled in Reading, Pennsylvania, and Entiat, Washington.

Smokey’s anniversary comes as scientists warn the world’s forests are vulnerable amid climate change. Human-caused wildfires remain one of their biggest concerns.

According to a study published in February 2017 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , 84% of the blazes that firefighters were called to fight in the U.S. between 1992 and 2012 were ignited by people.

FILE – In this Friday, July 26, 2019 file photo, visitors watch as Will, one of the grizzly bears at the Oklahoma City Zoo comes out for a frozen treat during an early celebration of Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday in Oklahoma City. Smokey Bear was born on Aug. 9, 1944, when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed that a fictional bear would be the symbol for their joint effort to promote forest fire prevention. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

All contents © copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Anniversary comes as scientists warn the world’s forests are vulnerable amid climate change     CAPITAN, N.M. (AP) — There will be 75 candles on his birthday cake and Smokey Bear still hopes none of them start a forest fire. The icon of the longest-running public service campaign in the U.S. is being honored with […]

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