Wanting Again on 75 Years of Smokey the Bear, America’s Favourite Fireplace Fighter


The Smokey Bear wildfire prevention marketing campaign—the longest-running public service announcement in U.S. historical past—was launched throughout World Conflict II. Opposite to in style fantasy, it didn’t begin with a real-life bear. That got here later. Pearl Harbor occurred first, in 1941, adopted by Japanese subs firing shells into California, which almost ignited Los Padres Nationwide Forest.

Panicked as a result of most firefighters have been abroad, the federal government figured residents have been the perfect protection in opposition to forest fires. Out of the blue, wildland blazes have been the enemy, and when Smokey debuted in 1944, he grew to become an instantaneous hit—maybe too massive.

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A long time of fireside suppression, whether or not the hearth was human-caused or not, has led to unhealthy forests primed for catastrophic burns. Which, paradoxically, has made Smokey’s message much more important in the present day. Right here’s a breakdown of the anti-fire zealot’s lengthy historical past.

Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service


After utilizing the solid from Bambi in a fire-prevention marketing campaign, the Forest Service hires artist Albert Staehle to design its personal mascot: a bear in a ranger’s hat.


The primary real-life Smokey is present in New Mexico. After 30 firefighters survive a large blaze by mendacity facedown in a rockslide, they spot a black bear cub in a charred tree and rescue it. The bear, dubbed Smokey, lived on the Nationwide Zoo till his demise in 1976; he was buried at his namesake park in Capitan, New Mexico.


Songwriters Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins write a tribute that backfires: For rhythm, they discuss with him as “Smokey the Bear.” The confusion ensues in the present day.


Whereas dwelling on the Nationwide Zoo, real-life Smokey will get so many letters that the Postal Service provides him his personal zip code: 20252.


Smokey’s success evokes the hatching of Woodsy Owl and his authentic slogan: “Give a Hoot! Don’t Pollute.”


Snoopy celebrates Smokey’s 50th birthday. Different endorsers have included Bing Crosby, Roy Rogers, and the Grateful Lifeless.


The catchphrase “Solely you possibly can stop forest fires” is modified to “wildfires” to make clear that not all burns are dangerous.


A yearlong celebration features a Stephen Colbert PSA and dozens of occasions, like a November broadcast from Smokey Bear Historic Park, in Capitan, New Mexico.

Smokey the Bear 75th anniversaryCourtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Smokey by the Numbers:

27,375 and Counting: Variety of days of the longest public service marketing campaign in U.S. historical past
$1.6 Billion: Worth of promoting time and house donated for the marketing campaign
96%: The proportion of People who acknowledge Smokey, in accordance with the AdCouncil



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