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Smokey Bear from idea to icon

Author(s): James G. Lewis
Year Published: 2018

Smokey Bear’s story begins with World War II. In spring 1942, a few months after Japanese planes had attacked Pearl Harbor, an enemy submarine fired shells that exploded near an oil field close to the Los Padres National Forest. U.S. Forest Service personnel feared that future attacks could ignite forest fires and cause disastrous loss of life and destruction of property. Although the Forest Service and other federal agencies had been trying to educate people about the dangers of forest fires since Theodore Roosevelt was president, the enemy’s success in attacking the U.S. mainland, however limited the damage, gave protection of the nation’s lumber supply new importance.

The demands of war limited the number of firefighters, leaving communities to deal with wildfires as best they could. Prevention became crucial. To help, the U.S. Forest Service organized the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) program with the National Association of State Foresters and the War Advertising Council (which became the Advertising Council after the war ended). The program’s purpose: to inform the public about how forest fires could undermine the war effort.

Citation: Lewis, James G. Smokey Bear: from idea to icon. Forest history today. Vol. 24, nos. 1-2 (Spring-Fall 2018): p. 13-16.
Topic(s): Fire Communication & Education, Fire History
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 20222
Record updated: Oct 30, 2019