One of the Forest Service’s most recognizable facesÂ turns 65 on Sunday. Just don’t go lighting any birthday candles for him.
Smokey Bear has been preaching the dangers of forest fires since Aug. 9, 1944. His trademark catchphrase, “Only you can prevent wildfires,” is one of the longest running public service announcement campaigns in U.S. history.
HisÂ enduring message certainly has played a major role in helping reduce forest fires.Â Since 1944, the number of acres lost annually to forest fires has dropped from about 22 million to 6.5 million, the Forest Service says.Â However, there’s still plenty of work for Smokey Bear to do. Many Americans believe that lightning starts most wildfires, while in realityÂ 9 out of 10 wildfires nationwide are started by humans.Â Most often, forest fires are caused by peopleÂ whoÂ leave campfires unattended, burn trash on windy days and carelessly discard cigarettes and charcoal.
ToÂ mark the occasion, the Forest Service on Monday will release a new illustrated story book, written in both English and Spanish, that is aimed at introducing the iconic figure and his fire prevention message to a new generation of American children.
Smokey Bear will be on hand for the festivities, at the Agriculture Department’s Whitten Building in Washington, and will even be cutting his birthday cake, the Forest Service tells us. We can only guess what he will be wishing for as he blows out his candles.