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Wednesday, July 18, 2012


With the decrease in wildfire activity I am taking the opportunity to begin posting information about Smokey Bear, his birthday and other interesting pictures, links and information you might not have seen or know about.  Wildfire “season” is still in full swing and there is a lot of the seasons in front of us so don’t let your guard down. This may just be the calm before the storm.
But for now I hope you find the following posts useful, fun and interesting.
In just a short 3 weeks it will be Smokey’s 68th birthday, 1944 doesn’t seem all that long ago!

 First pictures of Smokey Bear. Look closely they are different or not!, which one  was most widely used and did you know the photographer's name?? It was Harold D. Walters, with the U.S. Forest Service

But before we talk about Smokey a little history lesson is called for...

History of the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign

  As early as 1902, Americans were being warned about the damages of unwanted human caused forest fires, but no formal campaign aimed at prevention existed.  Then in 1939 a poster entitled "Your Forest-Your Fault" featured a Forest Ranger in the image of Uncle Sam pointing to a raging forest fire.  During the years of 1936-1941 a total of 210,000 forest fires burned over 30 million acres of forest and range land.  Nine out of ten were human caused. Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a Japanese submarine surfaced off of the coast of Southern California and fired shells near the Los Padres National Forest.  In 1942, the USDA-Forest Service organized the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Program.  War posters carried fire prevention messages, "Careless Matches Aid the Axis" and "Our Carelessness, their Secret Weapon."  In 1944 the Wartime Advertising Council decided to use an animal to carry the fire prevention message.  Walt Disney agreed to lend the image of Bambi, for a year, to be the first to carry the message. 
   On August 9, 1944 a bear was chosen to be the spokesman for forest fire prevention.  The bear was named "Smokey" after a well-known Assistant Fire Chief named Smokey Joe Martin.  The first slogan, "Care will prevent 9 out of 10 forest fires" was developed and artist Albert Staehle became Smokey's creator.  Within a couple of years, another artist named Rudy Wendelin took over as the Smokey Bear artist and stayed with Smokey until his retirement in 1973.  Smokey's message "Remember only you can prevent forest fires" was coined in 1947.
   Events on May 9, 1950 changed forever the way Americans would look at the forest fire prevention message. On this day in history, a 5 lb. black bear cub was found after a forest fire in the Capitan Mountains near Capitan, New Mexico.   Named Smokey after the poster bear, the cub was later sent to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. to become the "living symbol" for fire prevention.  By 1952, Congress passed and President Eisenhower signed into law the Smokey Bear Act, public law 359.  This law gave control of the image of Smokey to the Secretary of Agriculture so that there would be no unlawful use of Smokey Bear's image.  
   In the late 1950's, a search was underway for a mate for Smokey, and in 1961 "Goldie", an orphaned female black bear also from New Mexico, arrived in Washington to be Smokey's mate.  Sadly no cubs were ever born to the couple and a search was begun to find an adopted son.  By 1964 Smokey's fan mail was so great that he was given his own zip code, 20252.  The only other celebrity to have this honor is the President of the United States.  In 1971, another orphaned black bear was found and sent to Washington, D.C. to become "Little Smokey".  His training lasted for four years when Smokey retired in 1975 after serving for 25 years as the "living symbol" for fire prevention and Little Smokey takes over.  On November 9th, 1976, Smokey passed away and was returned to his hometown of Capitan, New Mexico and is buried at the Smokey Bear Historical Park.  1984 marked the 40th birthday of the poster Smokey and was celebrated by a commemorative stamp designed by Rudy Wendelin, with the first day issue being in Smokey's hometown of Capitan.  The story of the "living symbol" closed with the death of Little Smokey on August 11, 1990.  "Little Smokey" was buried in an undisclosed location in Washington, D.C.  The CFFP is the longest running public service advertising campaign in the history of the Ad Council.
Smokey’s message may be more important today than when it was first conceived 68 years ago. Remember, only You can prevent wildfires.

OK now we can get to "The Bear" SMOKEY !

"May 4th, 1950 was the beginning of a forest fire known to the whole nation, not because of its size or spectacular losses, but because a tiny five-pound black bear cub named Smokey was rescued from it." Dorothy Guck, newspaper reporter for the Lincoln county news.
The first of two fires began on Thursday, May 4th, 1950 when a cook stove over heated and started casting sparks. Fanned by winds of up to 70 mph, thus began the first of two forest fires in the Capitan Mountains. The Los Tablos fire burned approximately 1000 acres before fire crews had it under control two days later on May 6th. It's is believed that the second fire started on May 6th and was also human caused. Again with the wind blowing very hard and having to cover over a mile of rough road to get to what would become known as the Capitan Gap fire, fire crews were in a race against time. It would prove to be a race they would lose! 
On May 8th, a terrible wind made it impossible to control the fire and on this day nineteen fire fighters were forced to escape to a rock slide while the fire burned over them. They were rescued without any fatalities. It was on May 9th that the face of forest fire prevention changed forever with the discovery of a badly singed bear cub. 
Briefly named "Hotfoot Teddy" he was about to take his place in history as the "living symbol" Smokey. Found clinging to a charred tree, the tiny cub was brought back to fire camp by a group of soldiers from Ft. Bliss, Texas who had come to help fight the Capitan Gap fire. New Mexico game warden Ray Bell, who had been flying over the fire for fire boss Dean Earl, had heard of the burned cub. Ray knew the cub needed medical attention and the best veterinarian he knew was in Santa Fe. Ray loaded the little cub in the airplane and flew to Santa Fe. Once there, Dr. Ed Smith was the vet who treated the cubs’ burns but it was Ruth Bell (Ray's wife) and daughter Judy who deserve most of the credit for getting the little cub to eat. 

Dean Earl (left) and Ray Bell

Have you ever seen these two pictures??

What about this one?
In route to Washington, Smokey delighted crowds at stop-off points as he sat in the lap of Homer Pickens of the New Mexico Game and Fish Commission and spelled the pilot at the controls.

OK more pictures and info later.

Click on the images to save or print and share with anyone that might have an opportunity to promote wildfire prevention, Smokey Bear and Fire and Life Safety in general.

Coloring Sheet

Activity Sheet

Mini Poster 8 1/2 x 11

PLEASE check back for another Celebrate SMOKEY BEAR birthday post, next week. A look at more pictures of the real bear, posters, the history of the costume and much more.


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