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Wildland fires can be catastrophic for forests but also for homeowners and their property.  Fires are often caused by natural factors, but by far, the largest cause of wildfires is man-related.  Learning about wildfire prevention and what you can do to help will reduce the number of fires.  Preventing forest fires is everyone’s responsibility!  The Northeast Forest Fire Protection Commission's Prevention and Education Working Team (PEWT) offers several ways to take part.  See the Prevention section for more information.


Smokey Bear History and Trivia

With a very special 75th birthday celebration being planned for 2019 we thought that we would provide you with a little history refresher and some trivia regarding the longest running public service campaign in Ad Council history.

The cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Program was established in 1942.  It is administered by the USDA Forest Service, The National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council.

In 1944 the Wartime Advertising Council teamed up with Walt Disney who permitted Bambi to be used for one year as the first cartoon animal to disseminate a national fire prevention message.

On August 9, 1944 a bear was selected to become the national symbol of forest fire prevention.

Artist Albert Staehle created the first images of the bear which would eventually be named “Smokey” Bear.

Rudy Wendelin took over the reigns as Smokey’s Bear’s official artist in 1946 and continued until his retirement in 1973.

In 1947 the well know slogan “Remember only you can prevent forest fires” became Smokey’s official message.  This was used for 54 years until it was revised to “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires” in 2001.

On May 9, 1950 a 5 pound Black Bear cub rescued from a forest fire in Capitan New Mexico would become the first living symbol of forest fire prevention.  The live bear would remain in residence at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. until his passing on November 9, 1976.

In 1952 the Smokey Bear Act, public law 359 was signed into law by President Eisenhower assigning protection of Smokey’s image under the management of the USDA Forest Service.  Licensing agreements have provided millions of dollars in revenue dedicated for use in fire safety education and prevention.

A Junior Ranger program was established in 1953 and millions of children have participated learning how to prevent forest fires as Smokey’s Junior Ranger team.

Smokey Bear received so much fan mail at the Washington Zoo that he was assigned his own zip code, 20252.  Now Smokey has his own website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram site as well as a YouTube channel.

This is just a brief offering of Smokey Bear trivia and history.  For more information,wildfire prevention education materials and interactive programs please visit Smokey’s website at

Prevention Measures for Agriculture Land Clearing Burning Activities

Forested land is cleared annually for agriculture purposes with unsalvageable woody debris disposed of through debris piling and controlled burning. Burning usually occurs in the late fall when weather conditions are more suitable. Each province/state has regulation and policy in place to ensure fire escapes do not occur from burning activities. Burning permits are usually required and provide specific site management and burn conditions.

The following are common fire prevention measures associated with land clearing burning activities:

  • A fire guard (usually 10-15m (33-49ft) wide) of exposed mineral soil is to be established around the perimeter of the burn site.
  • Windrows/piles are to be a safe distance from adjacent fuels (e.g. forests, grass-usually 20-25m (66-82 ft)).
  • Parallel windrows/piles are to be separated at a distance that they will not ignite each other (usually 15m (49 ft)).
  • Keep windrows/piles a manageable length (usually <60m (197ft)).
  • Minimize mixing of mineral soil in debris piles for a clean burn.
  • Garbage of any sort (e.g. tires, plastic, household wastes, treated wood, petroleum wastes, etc.) is not to be incorporated into the burn piles.
  • Limit the number of piles or area being burned to a level that on-site personnel and equipment can extinguish should weather conditions change.
  • Select wind directions and burning conditions that minimize smoke exposure to neighbors.
  • Burn when the Fire Weather Index and wind speed is at the level permitted in your local area.
  • If the Fire Weather Index or winds exceed permitted levels immediately extinguish the fire.
  • Have adequate water and equipment on-site to control and possibly extinguish the fire if necessary.
  • Continually monitor the fire by a responsible person/s until the fire is extinguished.
  • Watch for sparks starting spot fires on adjacent lands.
  • Once the fire is out check the entire burn site for hot spots and extinguish any found.

It is the responsibility of the landowner to understand the site management and burning requirements specific to their area.
Contact your local authority for requirements and details