Smokey Bear celebrates 70th birthday; encourages fire safety

(Released August 4, 2014)

Smokey Bear’s message “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires” is as relevant today as it was 70 years ago when Smokey first became a champion of wildfire prevention. Smokey’s 70th birthday is Aug. 9.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources joins Smokey in celebrating fire safety successes and urging all Minnesotans to be careful with fire. Smokey Bear is Smokeyone of the most well-known symbols in the United States. An amazing 96 percent of U.S. adults recognize Smokey Bear and 70 percent are able to recall Smokey’s tagline without prompting.

Smokey has many educational materials available, especially for kids kindergarten through fifth grade. The Minnesota Interagency Fire Center is home to the National Symbols Cache, the place where all Smokey Bear educational materials are stored and sent out nationwide.

Since 1944, Smokey has told kids and adults that they can make a difference in preventing wildfires. His fire safety lessons have helped reduce forest fires. The average number of acres lost to wildfire nationwide has decreased from 22 million acres in 1944 to an average of 6.7 million acres today.

Yet, wildfires still harm public health and safety, destroy homes and property, and cost millions of dollars annually in firefighting. Minnesota wildland firefighters extinguish an average of 1,400 fires that burn 31,000 acres each year. Most of these wildfires, 98 percent, are caused by people and can be prevented.

Help Smokey celebrate 70 years of fire prevention by being careful with fire at all times.

Here are eight of Smokey’s tips for fire safety.

  • Don’t play with matches.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended and make sure it is cold to the touch before leaving.
  • Use grills, camp stoves and lanterns away from materials that can catch fire.
  • Be careful with fireworks. Put used fireworks in a bucket of water.
  • Make sure outdoor vehicles and equipment are in good working order. Sparks from vehicles and equipment can start fires.
  • Watch the weather. Hot, dry, windy weather can increase chances of wildfire.
  • Put out cigarettes in a safe place.
  • People who see a wildfire, should call 9-1-1 immediately.

For more information on prevention and safety, wildfire emergencies and Smokey Bear education materials, visit Minnesota’s wildfire prevention webpage.