birthday, Smokey Bear! Forest firefighting symbol turns 70
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[August 09, 2014]
By Lacey Johnson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Smokey Bear,
a symbol for generations of Americans of the dangers of forest fires
and the star of the longest-running public service ad campaign in
U.S. history, celebrated his 70th birthday on Friday.
The importance of Smokey Bear, famed for his motto "only you
can prevent forest fires," is greater than ever today because of
longer and more intense wildfire seasons, U.S. Forest Service
chief Thomas Tidwell told a birthday celebration.
"It’s more important than ever for us to find every way possible
to reduce the number of accidental fires that occur on our
landscape every year,” he told about 100 people during a
celebration at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The birthday party, held a day early, included cupcakes and ice
cream, and the singing of "Happy Birthday" to an actor dressed
in a Smokey Bear costume.
The Forest Service unveiled Smokey Bear as a symbol for fire
prevention on Aug. 9, 1944. Tidwell said the country averaged
about 160,000 wildfires annually in 1944, compared with 60,000
today, a decline he attributes to the Smokey Bear campaign.
Up to 90 percent of U.S. wildfires are caused by humans,
according to the National Park Service.
Tidwell said today’s wildfires tend to be larger due to drier,
hotter weather. With more people living near forested areas,
Smokey’s message is more relevant than ever, he said.
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Ninety-six percent of U.S. adults recognize Smokey Bear and 70
percent can recall his tagline, according to research by the Ad
Council. The non-profit partnered with the Forest Service and
National Association of State Foresters to create Smokey Bear.
“He’s right up there with Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus,” said Ad
Council President Peggy Conlon.
The fire prevention campaign has expanded into social media. Smokey
Bear has 24,000 Twitter followers, 300,000 Facebook fans and more
than 1.8 million views on YouTube, she said.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Jim Loney)
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