Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources and conservationists statewide celebrated Smokey the Bear’s 75th birthday last week.
The public joined the government agency on August 9 in honoring one of the country’s iconic conservation heroes on his birthday. For 75 years, Smokey Bear has served as a national symbol for wildfire prevention — the longest running and most recognizable public service advertising campaign in U.S. history.
“The importance of Smokey’s message is as relevant today as it was 75 years ago,” Maryland State Forester Donald VanHassent said. “The best birthday present anyone can give Smokey Bear is learning how to prevent forest and wildland fires — as Smokey says, only you can prevent forest fires.”
On average the Maryland Forest Service responds to 325 wildfires that burn 3,200 aces within the state each year — and 97 percent of those fires are human-caused. Most wildfires in Maryland are caused by improper debris burning, arson, children playing with fire, smoking, and camp fires. Wildfires have the potential to kill trees, destroy wildlife habitat, and endanger homes.
In honor of Smokey’s birthday, several Maryland state parks along with the Maryland Forest Service wildland firefighters held public events honoring the occasion and helping spread Smokey’s message.