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Forest Fire Prevention - "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires" (1944 - Present)

The longest running campaign in Ad Council history, Smokey Bear and his famous warning, "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires," was introduced to Americans in 1944. The campaign was developed to educate the public on forest fire prevention. At the time, accidental fires accounted for nine out of 10 forest fires and destroyed millions of acres every year.

When the campaign was created, Walt Disney loaned "Bambi" for use on a poster for one year. The "Bambi" poster was a success and proved that using an animal as a fire prevention symbol would work. On August 9, 1944, the first poster of Smokey Bear was prepared, depicting a bear pouring a bucket of water on a campfire.

Smokey Bear became popular and, in 1952, Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins wrote a song with the same name that would cause a debate among Smokey enthusiasts for the next several decades. The writers added "the" between "Smokey" and "Bear" to maintain the rhythm, and because of the song's popularity, Smokey Bear became known as "Smokey the Bear" to many adoring fans. However, his name never changed. He is still Smokey Bear.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the Ad Council sponsored radio ads, featuring Smokey Bear's "conversations" with prominent public figures and celebrities - Bing Crosby, Art Linkletter, Dinah Shore, Roy Rogers, and others. Smokey Bear quickly drew enough public recognition to attract commercial interest and in 1952, 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.

Since its inception, Smokey's forest fire prevention campaign has reduced the number of acres lost annually from 22 million to 4 million.

In April 2001, the Ad Council updated Smokey's message to address the increasing number of wildfires nationwide, changing the slogan to "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires." The Smokey Bear wildfire prevention message is as vital today as ever before. Each new generation must be reminded of their role in wildfire prevention. Remember: Only YOU can prevent wildfires!

Watch historic PSAs:

View commercial View commercial
The Forest has Many Things (1969) The Deadliest Animal (1974)

 

Watch recent PSAs:

Crime Scene Smokey N'Da Boyz

 

View the collection of historic Smokey Bear images in Smokey's Vault.

 

 

 

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