What Started Smokey Bear and Fire Prevention
The USDA Forest Service tradition of preventing man-made forest fires started during World War II, when timber was a precious resource for armed forces. The Forest Fire prevention campaign has helped to reduce acres lost, due to forest fires, from 22 million (in 1944) to 6.5 million annually today.
In 1944, Disney's motion picture Bambi joined the effort as the subject of Forest Service fire prevention posters. In 1945, Bambi was replaced by a cartoon Smokey Bear illustrated by Albert Staehle. Smokey's official birthday is August 9, 1944.
The Smokey Bear symbol became a live bear almost six years later in 1950, when forest fire fighters found an orphaned, burned bear cub from Lincoln National Forest near Captain, New Mexico. The bear recovered quickly and soon after was dubbed Smokey Bear and moved to his new home in the National Zoo in Washington D.C.
Today, Smokey still works hard to teach respect for fire. Although the Forest Service sometimes sets fires these days in order to restore natural conditions, Smokey's message of self-responsibility with campfires and recreation in the outdoors remains the same today.
Remember- Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires!