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Smokey Bear Day

Campfire Day

About Smokey the Bear Day

When is Smokey the Bear Day? This holiday is always held on August 9

Attending a campfire is a popular summer activity. And, it’s important to have a safe, controlled campfire. Today is Smokey the Bear Day in recognition of the role the US Forest Service mascot plays in reducing forest fires. Raging forest fires have spiked as a result of global warming and carelessness on the part of humans. While individuals may not be able to do a lot about fires caused by the effects of global warming, we can reduce the number of devasting fires caused by our carelessness. Among other places, some of your efforts to reduce fires begin at your evening campfire.

Each year thousands of wildfires in the United States consume millions of acres of forests and cost millions of dollars. And, these statistics are dwarfed by the devastating fires that rage in Canada’s vast northern wilderness. The smoke and toxic fumes from these fires threaten our health.  About half of them are caused by dry lightning hitting dry tinder. But the other half are ignited by careless humans.

Smokey Bear is extremely popular. He plays a vital role in protecting our pristine forests by reducing the number of human-caused wildfires. But, his fire-fighting role is not without controversy as you will discover in this article.

For the Record: Smokey’s proper name is “Smokey Bear”. Some people refer to him as “Smokey the Bear”. While the former is his correct name, he doesn’t mind if you add the word “the” to his name. 

Smokey the Bear’s Slogan: Only you can prevent forest fires.

This History of Smokey the Bear

The roots of creation of Smokey the Bear began during World War II. In 1942, a Japanese submarine launched incendiary shells into the Los Padres National Forest near Santa Barbara, CA. They hoped to terrorize Americans with large forest fires. While it only caused minor fires, it heightened concerns about wildfires used as “weapons of war”. On August 9, 1944, the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council decided to use a bear to promote and educate people about forest fires and how to prevent them.  Smokey was a huge success.

Smokey Bear’s first slogan was “Care will prevent 9 out of 10 fires”. In 1947, he made his most famous quote “Only you can prevent forest fires”. More recently, in 2001, the slogan became “Only you can prevent wildfires”.

In 1950, a black bear survived a forest fire in New Mexico. Injured in the fire, he was captured and nursed back to health. Then, he was sent to live at the Washington, DC Zoo. He was named “Smokey” and become immensely popular. In 1953, Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins wrote a song about him titled “Smokey the Bear”.

Mountain Climbing

Environmental Debate on Forest Fires

The US Forest Service Smokey Bear ad campaigns were very successful in lowering the number of forest fires set by human carelessness. They raised public awareness of what people can do to avoid sparking a forest fire. The ads were highly effective in lowering the number of fires and the acreage burned. This sparked debate on good versus bad burns. A good burn is considered a controlled burn and is environmentally helpful. It helps maintain a healthy forest by eliminating excessive amounts of dry, combustible materials. A bad burn is a fire that gets out of control and devastates hundreds and sometimes thousands of acres, often consuming homes and other buildings along the way. Opponents argued that by drastically reducing the number of fires, Dry tinder buildup on the forest floor leads to larger, more damaging fires.

With the success of Smokey Bear’s ads, detractors believe fewer small (good) burns increased the occurrence of raging, out-of-control wildfires. this 

How You Can Prevent Forest Fires

Statistics prove that our efforts indeed reduce dangerous and often deadly forest fires. Listed below are some things you can do to help eliminate them and protect your home from forest fires when they occur.

  • Make campfires safe. Always have a bucket of water or a garden hose handy.
  • Never leave an unattended fire.
  • Make sure a campfire is completely out before retiring for the evening.
  • Comply with “no open fire” orders when issued.
  • Never, ever throw out a cigarette that is still lit.
  • Make sure matches are out. Drop them into water.
  • Do not use fireworks during dry conditions.
  • Clean away dry brush and combustible materials from around your home. 
  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children.
Fire Tower, Smokey Bear, US Forest Service

Smokey Bear Trivia

What do you know about Smokey Bear? 

  • His original name was “Hotfoot Teddy”.
  • The correct name is Smokey Bear, not Smokey the Bear.
  • An estimated 96% of adults recognize his name.
  • Prior to the creation of Smokey Bear, Disney lent Bambi to the Forest Service and War Advertising Council to use in fire prevention ads.
  • Illustrator Albert Staehle drew the first Smokey Bear.
  • He is the mascot of the US Forest Service.
  • 9 out of 10 wildfires are caused by humans.
  • Smokey Bear has a Twitter account.
  • The only Americans with their own personal zip code are the President and Smokey Bear.
  • Highly successful Smokey Bear campaigns have been so successful at preventing forest fires that trees and debris pile up on the forest floor. This results in forest fires burning larger and hotter.

How to Celebrate Smokey Bear Day

Here are some ideas on how you can celebrate Smokey the Bear Day:

  • Review fire prevention methods. 
  • Educate others on fire safety.
  • Look at old Smokey Bear ads.
  • Have a campfire safely and talk about how each of us can avoid wildfires.

Today's Quotes

“If a man is talking in the forest, and there is no woman there to hear him, is he still wrong?” Jenny Weber

“If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make any noise?” – – Author Unknown

“This land is your land, this land is my land, From California to the New York Island. From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters This land was made for you and me.” – – Woody Guthrie

“If you tell a joke in the forest, but nobody laughs, was it a joke?” – – Steven Wright

History and Origin of Smokey Bear Day

This holiday was created by Bob Matthews from Rochester NY. He is also the owner of According to Matthews, Smokey Bear is an important player in the fight against carelessly set forest fires. Smokey educates people on how to avoid becoming “the match” that lights a deadly and devastating inferno.

Matthews chose August 9 to celebrate this holiday as Smokey first appeared in commercials on August 9, 1944.

Related Holidays

People who like this holiday will also like:

National Park Service Day

National Public Lands Day

More August 9 Holidays

Here is another August 9 holiday you will enjoy:

Book Lover’s Day

More About Today

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