Smokey Bear hosts birthday party

August 6, 2013 

Smokey Bear reads his fan mail.

U.S. FOREST SERVICE

Smokey Bear will celebrate his 69th birthday Friday and Boise wildland fire officials are inviting area residents to celebrate with them.

A birthday fete will take place from noon to 2 p.m. at the Natural Resources Center at 1249 S. Vinnell Way in Boise. The party will take place in the courtyard between the Boise National Forest headquarters and the BLM state offices.

Slices of cake will be handed out and children can have their photos taken with Smokey.

Created in 1944, the Smokey Bear wildfire prevention campaign is the longest running public service advertising campaign in U.S. History.

The campaign's original catch phrase was "Smokey Says — Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires." In 1947, it was changed to "Remember ... Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires." In 2001, it was modified to "Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires."

A real-life "Smokey" had its roots in a 1950 forest fire in New Mexico. A small bear cub took refuge in a tree that was in the path of the fire. While climbing the tree saved the cub's life, he was badly burned on his paws and hind legs.

A soldier removed the bear from the tree. He was flown to Santa Fe, where his burns were treated and his legs and paws were bandaged.

News about the bear spread through New Mexico and Associated Press and United Press stories introduced the bear to the nation. New Mexico's state game warden gave the cub to the chief of the Forest Service with the understanding the bear would be dedicated to a publicity program stressing fire prevention and conservation.

The bear was placed at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and became the living symbol of Smokey Bear.

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