According to CBS News, Smokey the Bear turned 70 years old on Aug. 9. Smokey the Bear has been the star of the longest-running public service ad campaign in U.S. history. Smokey the Bear has been warning against the dangers of forest fires for generations. However, in recent years his campaign warns against the dangers of wildfires since they are more intense than forest fires.
Reuters says his original name was just Smokey Bear until songwriters Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins had a successful song named "Smokey the Bear." The pair added "the" to Smokey's name for the rhythm of the song.
There was a celebration with about 100 people in attendance at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to honor Smokey the Bear. An actor was dressed in a Smokey the Bear costume, and the party included cupcakes and ice cream with those attending singing "Happy Birthday."
Smokey the Bear was created on Aug. 9, 1944 because of fears that America’s enemies would set forest fires while most U.S. firefighters were in battle overseas. After the war was over, Smokey the Bear stayed as a symbol for fire prevention. At the time, the country averaged about 160,000 wildfires annually, compared with 60,000 today. The decline has been attributed to the Smokey the Bear campaigns over the years.
At 70 years old, Smokey the Bear is still at the center of the longest-running public service announcement campaign in U.S. history. His creation was a collaboration of the U.S. Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council.
Ninety-six percent of U.S. adults recognize the brown bear with the brimmed hat and shovel who warns about fires. Seventy percent of U. S. adults can recall his slogan.
Smokey the Bear used to show up in elementary schools to give his message. Interestingly, today the fire prevention campaign has expanded into social media where Smokey the Bear shares with more than 24,000 Twitter followers, 300,000 Facebook fans and more than 1.8 million viewers on YouTube.
Smokey the Bear used to not speak in his public service messages except for his signature line, "Only you can prevent forest fires" that was created in 1947. Not only has his signature line changed to "Only you can prevent wildfires," but because of social media Smokey the Bear has a voice. Check out Smokey the Bear's Facebook page and see how chatty he has become.