"Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires." We've heard this slogan for most of our lives in Maine. But where did this idea of a bear and forest fire prevention come from?

Well, it happens to be the longest running campaign in all of the Ad Council's history.

The slogan was introduced to Americans in 1944. Smokey started off as a cartoon and reminding the viewers that, "You have so many reasons to protect your forest." And capped the ad off in a personal way by saying, "Only YOU can prevent forest fires."

We've heard Smokey say other thought provoking phrases, such as:

  • "Smokey Says - Care will prevent 9 out of 10 forest fires" (His original statement in 1944).
  • "Think before you strike! Put the life out of your campfires, before the campfires put the life out of the forest."
  • "Remember, when you're in the forest, you're among friends."
  • "Only YOU can prevent wildfires."

Then there was the 'Smokey the Bear Song', sung by Eddie Arnold and Gene Autry, which was popular back in the 1950's and put out by Johnny Jones and the Peter Pan Rangers.


Smokey the Bear's image is protected under Federal Law and administered by the USDA Forest Service, the Ad Council and National Association of State Foresters.

Even though the groups have been campaigning for decades, it's still one of the most critical issues facing America.

Smokey the Bear and Wildfire Prevention.

On December 7, 1944, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in the port of Oahu, Hawaii. In the spring of 1945, Japanese submarines launched shells off the coast of Santa Barbara, California that exploded on an oil field near Los Padres National Forest.

With the collaboration of the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention program and the War Advertising Council and Association of State Foresters, posters and slogans, like the one below, were sent out to the public in order to inform them about what was happening.


In 1942, Walt Disney's 'Bambi' hit the movie theater's and, in one scene, showed the animals fleeing from the woods that were set ablaze. People were already becoming more conscious about wildfires and with the permission of Mr. Disney, his cartoon deer was authorized to be used with the campaign.


On August 9, 1944, the U.S. Forest Service authorized a bear, named 'Smokey' to be used as their mascot and messenger to herald the cry for all of us to be aware of our cigarettes, fire pits, etc while camping or being in the woods.


So, even though Smokey says that the fire threats are low today, that doesn't mean they will be tomorrow.

With summer fast approaching in Maine and the camping, hiking, boating, biking and other events happening soon, let's all be mindful and remember, "Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires."