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Monday, Aug. 9, marks Smokey Bears 60th birthday, and Smokeys simple themeOnly You Can Prevent Forest Firesremains as pertinent today as it was when first coined 60 years ago.
The first national fire prevention messages featuring Smokey Bear were distributed by the United States Forest Service in 1944. The Forest Service, working with the Advertising Council, authorized a poster by artist Rudolph Wendelin as the symbol of fire prevention.
The symbol became real in 1950 in New Mexico when firefighters found a tiny bear cub up a tree in a burned area after a forest fire had swept through and badly burned the feet of the little cub.
Firefighters rescued him and nicknamed him Hotfoot for a while but quickly switched to Smokey in honor of the Forest Service firefighting symbol. Game warden Ray Bell took the little cub to a veterinary hospital in Santa Fe and later kept the cub in his home during recovery. When he finally was healed, he was flown to the National Zoo. In 1976, Smokey died and was returned to New Mexico to be buried.
Smokey Bear continues to be the national symbol of fire prevention and education and will always remind us that Only You Can Prevent Wildfires! To learn more about Smokey Bear, visit www.smokeybear.com