Public Health Icon Smokey Bear Turns 70
Aug 14, 2014, 3:06 PM
If you’re reading this, then YOU can prevent wildfires. Also forest fires.
Both are indelible messages from Smokey Bear—an icon of public health and a friendly face from everyone’s childhood—who is celebrating his 70th birthday. Born August 9, 1944, the creation of the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council has over the decades become the center of the longest-running PSA campaign in U.S. history.
As part of the birthday celebration, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters have launched a new round of PSAs featuring outdoor enthusiasts thanking Smokey for his years of work.
Since the campaign’s launch in 1944, the average number of acres burned by wildfires has decreased from 22 million to 6.7 million. However, they still remain one of the country’s most critical environmental issues—as well as one of its most misunderstood. While many people believe that lightning is the cause of most wildfires, the reality is the vast majority—9 out of 10—are manmade. The causes range from unattended campfires and burning debris on a windy day to improperly discarded smoking materials and operating equipment without spark arrestors.
This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.