Smokey Bear

First poster of Smokey Bear pouring water on a campfire to extinguish flames
Smokey Bear’s first appearance on a Forest Fire Prevention campaign poster, released on August 9, 1944. Public Domain image from:, Wikimedia Commons 

Smokey Bear’s birthday is celebrated each year on August 11th. Smokey, a baby black bear that was rescued from a wildfire in New Mexico in 1950, became a symbol for the longest-running public service announcement campaign in U. S. history, a campaign that still exists.

Experienced firefighters and men in their prime served in WWII, prompting the U.S. Forest Service to appeal to the American public to take an active role in fire prevention.

Little Smokey Bear, who was rescued and brought back to health, became the real life symbol for all Americans, especially school children.  He lived at the National Zoo, and was so popular that he received more than 13,000 letters per week. The Postal Service granted him his own zip code, which is still in use today. The first Smokey Bear died in November 1976.

Smokey II, also an orphaned bear cub, was the second live representation of Smokey Bear from 1975 to his death in 1990. Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

Tiny black bear cub in black and white photo
Photo of Smokey II: U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

Today, fire prevention is even more crucial than ever before, with an increasing number of out of control fires burning longer and destroying larger swaths of our precious forests.

Find resources about Smokey Bear on these sites: