The 1942 movie Bambi (see the fire scene above) and a 1964 public service announcement featuring Smokey Bear and Bambi (below), influenced a couple of generations, making it difficult for the public to think of fire in the forest as anything other than a terrible menace that to be defeated, prevented, or immediately suppressed at any cost. The struggle to accept prescribed fire as a legitimate forest management practice continues to this day.
The video above shows some historical examples of how Smokey Bear has appeared in public service announcements.
Below is a new version of a Smokey Bear song.
The original Smokey Bear song was the genesis of a misunderstanding of Smokey’s middle name: “The”. A songwriter added it because he thought it was needed in the phraseology of the music. But Smokey does not have a middle name. He is SMOKEY BEAR.
Employees of the Huron-Manistee National Forest in Michigan teamed up with employees of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to make a Smokey Bear ice sculpture for the 2015 North American Snowmobile Festival in Cadillac. U.S. Forest Service photo.
And speaking of Smokey, here is a classic poster from the 1990s.
Sunday morning between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. a thief with a chain saw made several cuts with the saw to remove the six feet tall image of Smokey Bear, weighing between 35 and 40 pounds, from a fire prevention sign in Vernon, Wisconsin.
And speaking of Smokey, here’s a throwback image of President Dwight D. Eisenhower holding a Smokey doll. It appears that Smokey is wearing a shirt — usually he is naked from the waist up. Either that or he has a badge pinned directly to his chest.
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The U.S. Forest Service had quite a few representatives in the Rose Parade in Pasadena on New Years Day.
Their entry was a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the historic role of packers in supporting wildland firefighters and other backcountry operations, and appreciation of the outstanding contributions made by national forest volunteers.
The all-mule equestrian entry included an entourage of Forest Service Rangers in period uniforms anchored by three mule pack strings. The mule pack strings were guided by California-based U.S. Forest Service packers Michael Morse, Lee Roeser and Ken Graves, who have an average of 37 years of experience each in the saddle.
This is something you don’t see every day — wildland fire personnel dressed up in their super-formal uniforms. (These folks are very high ranking of course, but seeing ANY non-headquarters-based U.S. Forest Service employee in a uniform is unusual.) I didn’t know the USFS had the Smokey Bear type hats except for the honor guards you see at funerals. The roses on the hats are a nice touch.
I did not see the parade, but there is a report that during the live broadcast the announcers had a debate about Smokey’s name — “Smokey Bear”, or “Smokey THE Bear”. Here’s the deal. A song written in 1952 celebrated “Smokey the Bear” and stirred a debate that lasted several decades. To maintain the proper rhythm in the song, the writers added “the” to the name, etching “Smokey the Bear” into the public psyche. But his name always was, and still is, Smokey Bear. Unfortunately the Forest Service fueled the confusion by publishing and distributing the words and music to the song in their fire prevention efforts.
All photos are provided by the U.S. Forest Service.