Smokey Bear Celebrates 65th Birthday, Reminding Americans that… “Only You Can Prevent Wild Fires”
Houston - Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recently celebrated Smokey Bear’s 65th birthday at Johnson’s Space Center (NASA) in Houston. Since his “birth” on August 9, 1944, Smokey Bear has been a recognized symbol of conservation and protection of America’s forests. His message about wildfire prevention has helped to reduce the number of acres burned annually by wildfires, from about 22 million (1944) to an average of 7 million today. However, wildfire prevention remains one of the most critical environmental issues affecting our country. Many Americans believe that lightning starts most wildfires. In fact, on average, 9 out of 10 wildfires nationwide are caused by people. The principle causes are campfires left unattended, trash burning on windy days, arson, careless discarding of smoking materials or BBQ coals, and operating equipment without spark arrestors.
Smokey Bear is the center of the longest-running public service advertising (PSA) campaign in U.S. history. Since 1944, he has been communicating his well-known message, “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.” In 2001, the term ‘Wildfires’ was introduced to include all unwanted, unplanned fires in natural areas such as grass fires or brush fires. The Smokey Bear campaign is a critical tool specially designed to ask for every citizen’s conscientious commitment to be responsible with fire.
Smokey Bear has been rated 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. The Forest Fire prevention campaign was ranked 26th on Advertising Age’s Top 100 Advertising Campaigns (March 1999), along such commercial advertising giants as Campbell’s Soup and Burger King.
The Wildfire Prevention campaign was developed in partnership with the Ad Council, a private, non-profit organization that marshals talent from the advertising and communications industries, the facilities of the media, and the resources of the business and non-profit communities to produce, distribute and promote public service campaigns on behalf of non-profit organizations and government agencies. The Ad Council will be distributing the new PSAs to media outlets nationwide. Per the organization’s model, the PSAs are airing and running in advertising time that is donated by the media.
The USDA Forest Service is the agency responsible for overseeing the use of Smokey Bear in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters and the Advertising Council.
The US Forest Service manages 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands for the American Public. Its mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.