SHERIDAN — In 1950, a young bear took refuge in a tree and was badly burned before firefighters rescued him, according to the U.S. Forest Service website. Inspired by the young bear’s bravery and tough spirit, the firefighters named him Smokey. Six years earlier, Smokey Bear became the USFS’ official face for preventing wildfires.
Smokey made an appearance Friday at the Bighorn National Forest Tongue Ranger District office to celebrate his 75th birthday with lemonade and cake.
By 1947, the slogan, “Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires!” was popping up in campsites, classrooms and public forest areas across the nation.
As the longest-running public service advertising campaign in U.S. history, generations of outdoor-lovers are familiar with Smokey’s yellow hat and big smile.
Sara Evans Kirol, public affairs officer for the Bighorn National Forest, encourages the community to be aware of increasing fire danger due to the recent hot, windy and dry weather.
“Please remember to never leave a fire unattended, even if it’s only for a short time,” she said in an email.
The Lick Creek fire, which has been burning in the BNF since July 30, is about 70% contained, she said.
“Personnel are still monitoring the inaccessible hot spot in the canyon,” Evans Kirol said.
In addition, the Cubb Creek Cabin fire is 100% contained and controlled.
This fire season has been later and slower than normal years, BNF fire management officer Jon Warder said in an email.
Warder cautioned that fire season lasts until the end of September, but it is unlikely that there will be fire restrictions this summer.
On Twitter, #SmokeyBear75 shows how communities around the country celebrated 75 years of wildfire prevention, from videos of Smokey visiting schools to birthday parties with candle-less cakes.