Smokey Bear’s 65th Birthday Renews Attention to Forest Fire Prevention

Smokey Bear’s 65th Birthday Renews Attention to Forest Fire Prevention

5 August 2009

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USA — This Sunday marks the 65th birthday ofSmokey Bear, the United States Forest Service mascot who was created to share messages about forest fire prevention.

On Aug. 9, 1944, Smokey the mascot began appearing onposters that said care would prevent nine out of 10 forest fires. Before Smokey, the government experimented withfire-prevention messages that were tied to World War II.

The bear, whose correct name is “Smokey Bear” and not “Smokey the Bear,” has helped bring widespread attention to wildland fires, but the problem remains.

Fires are currently burning in several western states and Alaska. Canada, meanwhile, has hada major forest fire outbreak this summer.

In 2008, there were at least 22 fires that cost more than $10 million each to suppress.The Forest Service said two of those fires were in Wyoming and New Mexico, while three were in Oregon and 17 were in California. The Forest Service provided additional background on wildfire activity from the past few years:

“Overall, FY 2008 wildland fires were less numerous and burned fewer acres than 2007 and 2006 wildland fires. The 78,949 wildfires reported to the National Interagency Fire Center in 2008 burned 5.3 million acres.

“This is compared to 85,705 reported fires in 2007 that burned 9.3 million acres and the 96,385 reported fires in 2006 that burned 9.9 million acres.2 Even though the short-term trend in number of fires and total burned acres shows a decline, the federal suppression cost trend for the fires exceeding $10 million shows an increase.”
Some of the worst fires in 2008 were caused by weather:
 “This was the case in northern California when, over a 33-hour period in June a storm produced 5,146 lightning strikes that ignited 1,010 fires, 643 on federal lands. Lightning also ignited fires elsewhere in California and, by June 28, the state had 1,217 uncontained fires, overwhelming the fire-suppression processes and procedures of the Forest Service

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