Local News

Happy birthday to Smokey

Local kids were invited to Smokey Bear’s 70th birthday party Saturday morning at the Florida Forest Service’s Sebring Forestry Station on County Road 17 South. Of course, no one brought candles.

Special events at Smokey’s birthday party included games; touch a fire truck, engine and dozer; interact with a Highlands County EMS ambulance, a Highlands Hammock State Park Type 6 engine; and the Highlands County Sheriff’s K9 unit was on hand.

Smokey’s message of fire prevention through personal responsibility hasn’t changed much. Here are some little-known facts about the tall, furry ursidae in the campaign hat:

Smokey Bear was created in 1944 because of fears that America’s enemies would set forest fires while most U.S. firefighters battled overseas.

When World War II ended, Smokey stuck around for the longest-running public service campaign in U.S. history.

Smokey Bear’s ad campaign was boosted in 1950. New Mexico firefighters rescued a real cub from a wildfire, nursed it back to health, and sent the living Smokey to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

Smokey’s name recognition is 96 percent among American adults, near Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus.

When Smokey debuted, TV was in its infancy and posters were hand-drawn. Now, Smokey posts on Instagram, YouTube and Flickr. Smokey has more than 300,000 Facebook friends and 24,000 people follow @Smokey_Bear on Twitter.

Traditionally, Smokey never spoke except a signature line, “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

Fans can sign a virtual card and upload photos at www.smokeybear.com.