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This year,  the NFFPC is helping Smokey Bear celebrate 75 years of preventing wildfires !

The Smokey Bear Hot Air Balloon will be at Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire on August 15, 2019 and at the Great Falls Balloon Festival in Lewiston, Maine from August 16 – 18, 2019.

Both events will have a booth staffed with NFFPC Compact Prevention Working Team members, local rangers and firefighters.

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