Smokey Bear: 75 Years of Preventing Wildfires
Written by Marcus Heerdt
August 5, 2019

On August 9, 1944, the US Forest Service officially authorized the creation of the Smokey Bear character in an effort to educate the public about preventing forest fires. The first poster depicting Smokey was displayed in October of the same year, with the bear wearing a hat and jeans with the slogan at the bottom reading, “Smokey says – Care will prevent 9 out of 10 forest fires!”

In 1950, a human-caused forest fire raged in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico within the Lincoln National Forest, burning a total of 17,000 acres. During the fire, a crew of firefighters spotted a black bear cub wandering on its own, and after a while, the bear climbed a tree and escaped the fire. The bear cub survived but suffered “badly burned paws and hind legs” which were then “treated and bandaged” after a joint rescue effort by firefighters, ranchers, and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. This bear became the “living symbol” of Smokey Bear and became an instant celebrity, and lived at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., for 26 years.

Smokey Bear now uses the familiar slogan, “Only you can prevent wildfires” and has two websites.

Smokey Bear Website: 

75th Anniversary Website:

The Custer Area Chamber of Commerce has a wide variety of Smokey Bear merchandise available to purchase! Come visit us!

Area Smokey Bear Events

-Smokey Bear and General Custer will visit downtown Custer around noon and be available for pictures for about an hour

-From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Black Hills National Forest Supervisors Office will have an old forest service truck on display, cookies to eat, and Smokey will also be wandering around intermittently

-Smokey Bear will make an appearance at the Hot Springs Farmers Market from 4 – 6:30 p.m. There will be free activities, games, and cookies to eat. This event is sponsored by the Black Hills Parks and Forests Association and Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands

Celebrate Smokeys Birthday with some new Smokey wares.png

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