I crushed someone’s childhood memory of Smokey Bear yesterday

On November 24 when I was working on installing the new Wildfire Fighter game on my iTouch, I exchanged a phone call and some emails with the company that produced it, and also with Chris Skaggs, the lead developer of the software. With Mr. Skaggs’ permission, here are copies of some of the emails. All were on November 24:


From Chris, forwarded to me by someone at the company that produced the game:

My dad was a career firefighter captain in Lake Arrowhead, CA – a resort town not far from LA. And every year we went through wildfire season where some pretty massive fires ripped through those mountains. SO I grew up with a constant awareness of the risks and dangers of wildfires as they regularly threatened my home and we had to evacuate several times as fires got within a mile or two of my home. In fact, the real Smokey bear was a bear cub found in a burnt out tree after the great Bear Fire – he was found about 10 miles from my house.


From me, to someone at the company that produced the game with whom I had been talking:

Thanks- But you might pass along to Mr. Scaggs that Smokey Bear was found in the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico.

From someone at the company that produced the game, to Chris:

Do you have any comment? He is calling you out on smokey bear knowledge!~ You might give him an email to say hi. He wrote about you in a good way earlier today. 🙂

From Chris to me:

Dude – I called my dad and I’ve basically been wrong my whole life. 🙂

But there’s a good reason…

I grew up right next to the Children’s Forest in the San Bernardino mountains. (http://www.sbnfa.com/chindex.php)
This site was built in the wake of the Great Bear Fire in 1970…but that fire was not named after Smokey Bear (which is what I’d always thought) but after Bear Creek and/or the nearby town of Big Bear (depending on who you ask).

There is a painting of Smokey Bear clasping the stump he was found on in that area and somewhere in my 5 year old mind I got the two stories put together and nobody ever corrected me until today…then again, I don’t know that I ever talked about it to anybody before now either…

So Mr. Gabbert appears to be spot on…and a precious childhood memory lay shattered in the ashes. 😉

BUT – all the other stuff is true…I think…pretty much… 😉

When I asked Chris for permission to print the story, he replied:


Feel free to print my story. Please let me know when/where I can see it. My dad would really get a kick out of that.

Smokey Bear, 2009 version

Some new new Smokey Bear fire prevention ads have been produced in the last couple of months. Here is one that was uploaded to You Tube yesterday by the Ad Council, which produces the ads.


The one below was put on You Tube an hour ago by the Ad Council. It is about a guy outside a diner who throws his cigarette onto the ground and is called out by someone in the diner who, like the previous ad, morphs into Smokey.

The next one was released in 2007. It features Bambi and other cutesy forest creatures. Remember it was Bambi being scared by forest fires decades ago that made the public fear ALL wildland fires and made it very difficult to conduct prescribed fires.

Has anyone else noticed that Smokey no longer calls them “forest fires”? He has switched to “wildfires”. When did that happen? In 2007 or before?

In 2008 Wildfire Today told you about a new Smokey ad featuring ATV riders that produced enough criticism that it was pulled and cancelled. An ATV organization complained that it…

“…incorrectly conveyed to the ATV rider that the best way for them to prevent wildfires was to stay at home. Instead, the ad should have encouraged the use of Forest Service-approved spark arresters and limiting travel to approved routes and areas.”

Create a Smokey Bear Jack O’Lantern

Would you like to have Smokey Bear looking out at your trick or treaters from a Halloween Jack O’Lantern?  Here’s how:

Print this stencil, which looks like this, below:

smokey stencil halloween


Option #1

  1. Cut out the “black pieces” from the stencil sheet, using an x-acto knife or similar tool.
  2. Tape stencil sheet onto pumpkin.
  3. Use a fine-line marker and draw the image ‘through the holes” onto the pumpkin.
  4. Cut these pieces away from the pumpkin.

Or, Option #2

  1. Tape the stencil onto the pumpkin.
  2. Using a pin or other sharp tipped tool “pin-prick” the edge of all the black portions of the stencil.
  3. Remove the stencil, and connect the dots/pin-pricks with a marker.
  4. Cut these pieces away from the pumpkin.

5. Send us a photo of your result. (We will post some of them.)

The Smokey Bear program, still alive and well

Smokey Bear will be 65 on August 9. Old enough to collect Social Security, but he is still busy out there stomping out forest fires.

The LA Times has an interesting article about what Smokey is up to lately, and some behind the scenes trivia about his public appearances.

Thanks Dick

How to prevent thefts of Smokey Bear signs

Teresa Stepzinski/The Times-Union

In the story from jacksonville.com below, Fire Chief Michael Carver of the Hortense Volunteer Fire Department in Georgia laments the fact that thieves keep keep stealing their Smokey Bear images and the adjectives (Low, Moderate, etc.) from their fire danger sign. When I worked as a Fire Prevention Technician on the Cleveland National forest one of my jobs was to install and maintain signs like Chief Carver’s above.

We quickly learned that to prevent the thefts of the Smokey image (which was on a sheet of aluminum or steel), we secured it with tamper-resistant bolts like the one on the right. The slide-in fire danger adjective signs were locked in with a steel bar that went all the way through both sides of the large sign and through both of the adjectives (one on each side, mounted on plywood). A padlock held the bar in place.

I also maintained 17″ x 44″ fire prevention signs along forest roads and highways. Cardboard posters, some with pictures of Smokey, were periodically stapled onto the signs, changing with the season. I had to pre-vandalize the Smokey posters so they would not be stolen. After stapling the poster to the plywood sign backing, I would take my Buck knife and slice the poster into pieces, making sure that there were enough staples to hold it all in place. From a distance you could not see that the sign was cut up, but none of the pre-vandalized signs were ever stolen.

From the article:

“Smokey the Bear is missing. He’s gone, and we would love to have him back home where he belongs,” Carver told the Times-Union on Tuesday.

Last Friday night, someone stole the handcrafted, 6-foot tall wooden Smokey Bear cut-out that was bolted to a 7-foot wide wildfire danger sign outside their fire station, Carver said. It was the latest in a series of Smokey-snatchings in Brantley County, said Chief Ranger Barry Rowell of the Georgia Forestry Commission unit in the county.

Rowell said another Smokey Bear was stolen earlier this year from its fire danger post at the Waynesville Volunteer Fire Department.

“We used to have one outside our office here, but it was stolen so many times that we finally gave up and stopped replacing it,” Rowell said. “We just couldn’t afford to do it.”

Four of the unit’s bears were stolen in as many years. Only one was recovered, but “it was all tore up,” Rowell said.

The Brantley bear heists began a couple of years ago, after the forest rangers made the signs for fire departments in the county, he said.

“I really don’t understand why someone is taking them, unless it’s just for mischief,” Rowell said.

Signs bearing the wildfire prevention icon have been targeted at forestry commission offices in neighboring counties, rangers said.

“It’s aggravating because these are very hard to come by,” said Chief Ranger Mark McClellan of the commission’s Glynn County unit based near Sterling.

Until Smokey was moved inside a barbed wire-topped chain link fence at the unit about 2-1/2 years ago, thieves ripped off its attachable signs stating “high” and “very high,” which are used to describe the daily fire danger, McClellan said.