In 1944, Smokey Bear made his debut in a U.S. Forest Service ad to build wildfire prevention awareness. His coined phrase, “Only you can prevent wildfires,” quickly became ingrained in American history. With Smokey’s face on campaign posters, bookmarks, radio and TV commercials, stuffed animals, bobble heads and print advertisements it became the longest-running public service announcement in U.S. history.
It’s no surprise that when a bear cub with burned paws was rescued during a forest fire in the Captain Mountains of New Mexico in 1950, it was named Smokey. Smokey called the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., home for 26 years before passing away. The remains of Smokey are buried in Capitan, N.M., in what is now known as Smokey Bear Historical Park. The park, “The Birthplace of Smokey Bear,” contains exhibits about forest health, forest fires and fire ecology, and includes a 10-minute film about today’s fire and forest health issues.
Just outside the park, Smokey fans can check out the Smokey Bear Museum and Gift Shop where hundreds of Smokey memorabilia line the shelves and decorate the walls, including Milton Bradley’s Smokey Bear game, Smokey canteens, watches, mugs, shovels, Junior Forest Ranger badges and sweatshirts, to name a few.
For more information, call 575-354-2247 or visit www.emnrd.state.nm.us/fd/smokeybear/SmokeyBearPark.htm.