ALBANY - A famous cartoon character is turning 75 years old this year.
Smokey Bear is having his 75th anniversary and the state Department of Environmental Conservation is celebrating at events throughout the state, said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos.
Smokey Bear was launched in 1944 as part of the Smokey Bear Wildfire Prevention campaign, the longest-running public service advertising campaign in U.S. history.
“Smokey Bear has successfully educated generations of Americans about how we can all help prevent wildfires,” Commissioner Seggos said. “We invite all New Yorkers to join us and celebrate this national icon at events across New York state this summer. Smokey’s words are still an urgent and relevant reminder for all of us to follow — ‘Only YOU can prevent wildfires.’”
Smokey Bear was “born” Aug. 9, 1944, when the Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed on using a fictional bear to serve as the symbol for their joint effort to promote forest fire prevention during World War II. Roughly nine out of 10 forest fires are caused by humans.
Wildfires can be deadly and destructive, and the national annual cost of their consequences can range anywhere from $71.1 to $347.8 billion, according to recent study by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Last year’s Camp Fire in northern California destroyed the city of Paradise and killed more than 80 people, making it the nation’s deadliest wildfire in more than a century.
New York state has 18.5 million acres of public and private forest lands susceptible to seasonal wildfires, and the DEC’s Forest Rangers are the state’s lead division tasked with forest fire mitigation and the control and prevention of wildfires. In 2018, the DEC Forest Rangers extinguished 105 wildfires that burned a total of 845 acres.
For more information about the Forest Rangers, go to the DEC’s website at https://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/41086.html.
Here are some Smokey Bear anniversary events:
Aug. 16-18: He attends the Woodsmen’s Field Days, Boonville, Oneida County
Aug. 21-Sept. 2: He attends the New York State Fair, outside Syracuse, Onondaga County.