Hancock County (GA) 2008
Due to a shortage of fire-fighters during WWII, the Forest Service created the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign in an effort to raise awareness of the danger of forest fires and maybe help prevent some of them. In 1942 Walt Disney let the Forest Service use his newest creation "Bambi" for advertising which turned out to be very well received by the public. However, the loan of Bambi expired after one year, and the Forest Service decided to make a bear the symbol for its campaign. The first Smokey Bear poster appeared on August 9, 1944 (considered Smokey's birthday) and by 1952 Smokey was such a huge commercial success that an Act of Congress passed to take Smokey out of the public domain and place him under the control of the Secretary of Agriculture. The Act provided for the use of collected royalties and fees for continued education on forest fire prevention.
When in 1952 Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins wrote the hit song "Smokey The Bear", adding a "the" between "Smokey" and "Bear" in order to keep the song's rhythm. As a result, much confusion ensued as Smokey Bear became incorrectly known as "Smokey The Bear".
After a devastating fire in New Mexico in the spring of 1950, a black bear cub was found clinging to a tree that had saved his life but burned his paws and hind legs. He was rescued and treated for his burns; when the media picked up the little cub's story, he became an instant celebrity. It was decided to make him the spokesbear for the fire prevention campaign and he was put up in the National Zoo in Washington DC where he lived for 26 years. It is said that he was so popular that he had his own zip code. After his death in November 1975, Smokey's remains were returned by the government to Capitan, New Mexico, and buried at what is now the Smokey Bear Historical Park.
The Smokey Bear campaign is the longest running public service campaign in U.S. history, with its forest fire prevention message remaining unchanged for more than 50 years. It was changed in April, 2001, when the Ad Council updated his message to address the increasing number of wildfires in the nation's wildlands.
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