NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 3,044 days

Smokey Bear turns 70 August 9

Contact(s): Curt Wilson, forestry leader, 920-662-5126 or John Lubbers, forestry team leader, 920-662-5132

August 5, 2014 at 1:39:21 pm

Green Bay--August 9 marks Smokey Bear's 70th birthday as he continues to communicate his well-known message: "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires."

Smokey is the center of the longest-running public service advertising campaign in U.S. history. Since 1944, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, as a member of the National Association of State Foresters, the Ad Council and the U.S. Forest Service have been helping Smokey become one of the most recognizable figures in America, ranking alongside Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus.

Smokey is recognized by 97% of adults and 3 out of 4 adults are able to recall Smokey's message of "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires" without prompting, according to an Ad Council tracking survey.

Smokey's message about wildfire prevention has helped to reduce the number of acres lost annually to wildfires -- from about 22 million (1944) to an average of 6.7 million annually today. However, wildfire prevention remains one of the most critical issues affecting our country.

It's always wildfire season somewhere in the U.S. and every region of the U.S. has wildfires - and calls for assistance are answered

Wisconsin recently sent a 20-person hand-crew of members from various government agencies to Boise, Idaho to assist with the wildfire suppression efforts in the western United States. Just as Wisconsin answered this call for help, Wisconsin also knows if help is needed from other states, that call will be answered.

"We are always prepared for the weather to take a turn for the worst, but if we do not find ourselves in a critical fire situation at home, we most certainly are willing to send resources to areas of the country in need," said Curt Wilson, forestry leader. "This is a two-way street. We send help to other states when requested. And, if we are facing needs in times of emergencies, we also will get that extra assistance in return."

Wisconsin's peak fire season typically occurs in the spring shortly after the snow-cover disappears. This also is the time landowners are outside conducting property clean-up and choosing to burn ground materials instead of composting or recycling.

"Many people think that lightening starts most wildfires. In fact, 9 out of 10 wildfires nationwide are started by humans," Wilson said. "Wildfires sparked by humans in Wisconsin are most commonly caused by debris or trash burning on windy days. The easiest way to prevent these fires is to simply obtain a burn permit and follow the rules."

Other common wildfire causes include:

• Campfires left unattended

• Disposing ashes from woodstoves or fireplaces

• Operating hot equipment in dry grassy areas

"The Smokey Bear campaign has helped children and adults throughout the country understand their role in preventing wildfires," Wilson said. "For 70 years, Smokey Bear has empowered people to make a difference; his message of personal responsibility continues to be as critical and relevant now as ever. We look forward to celebrating many more birthdays of our beloved icon."

Smokey is giving out bear hugs online, using #SmokeyBearHug. He's also directing fans to his website,, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter for more information about wildfire prevention.


Last Revised: Tuesday, August 05, 2014

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