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Smokey Bear Birthday

August 9, 2019 marks Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday and we want you to help celebrate this wildfire prevention bear’s special day.

Smokey Bear will be escorted to the Washington County Fair on the evening of Aug. 9, where he will receive a county-wide honor.  The Washington County Commission has issued a resolution recognizing Smokey Bear on his 75th birthday, and has declared Aug. 9 as “Smokey Bear Day” in all of Washington County, Missouri.  This resolution will be read during the Friday night entertainment intermission, at the main stage, at approximately 7:45 pm.

Smokey cannot be at the Mark Twain National Forest fair booth for the duration of the fair – he’s a busy bear!  But, the Forest Service will be celebrating his 75th birthday in his absence.  Kids of all ages are invited to stop by the Mark Twain National Forest booth to sign a birthday card for Smokey, enter a free drawing for a 12-inch Smokey Bear doll, and to pick up a wildfire prevention souvenir. 

Smokey Bear is at the heart of the longest-running public service campaign in American history.  During World War II, Japanese submarines fired shells that exploded on an oil field near the Los Padres National Forest in California.  There was a fear that incendiary shells exploding in the forest along the Pacific Coast could ignite raging wildfires.  Protection of forests became a matter of national importance, especially with so many able-bodied men deployed in the war.  The Forest Service organized the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Program, and in 1944, Smokey Bear was created as the program’s fire prevention symbol.

Later, in 1950, a fire spotter in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico spotted smoke and called it in to the nearest ranger station.  As crews battled the fire, a report came in about a bear cub wandering near the fire line.  The firefighters were caught directly in the path of the fire and survived only by laying down on a rockslide for over an hour as the fire burned past them.  The little bear cub had taken refuge in a tree and the fire charred the tree and burned his paws and hind legs.

News spread about the bear cub and his injuries.  Once his injuries were bandaged and starting to heal, the New Mexico state game warden presented the bear cub to the chief of the Forest Service and soon, the he was on his way to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. to become the living symbol of Smokey Bear.  Smokey Bear received so many letters and gifts of honey that he had to have his own zip code.

Smokey Bear has accomplished so much, but his work is far from over.  Nearly 9 out of 10 wildfires nationwide are caused by humans.  The principle causes of human-related wildfires are campfires left unattended, debris burning on windy days, hot ashes and BBQ coals, and operating equipment that throws sparks. 

Wildfire prevention remains crucial and Smokey Bear still needs your help.  Only you can prevent wildfires!

To learn more about Smokey Bear, including wildfire prevention activities for kids and educators, visit https://smokeybear.com/en.

The Potosi Ranger Station is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  You can reach us by calling 573-438-5427.  To receive updates on Mark Twain National Forest events and happenings, follow us on Twitter @marktwain_nf, and like us on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/marktwainnationalforest

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