(KMVT/KSVT) — U.S. Forest Service mascot Smokey the Bear celebrates his 74th birthday on Thursday.
The fictional bear was born Aug. 9, 1944 as a symbol to promote forest fire prevention by the USFS and the Ad Council, according the USFS website.
Artist Albert Staehle painted the first poster of Smokey Bear. The posted depicted a bear pouring a bucket of water on a campfire and saying “Care will prevent 9 out of 10 fires.”
In 1947, the Smokey the Bear slogan became “Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires!”
In 1950, a bear cub was badly burned in a forest fire in the Captain Mountains of New Mexico. Firefighters saw the cub climb a tree in an effort to escape the flames, but the cub sustained burns on its paws and hind legs, according to the Smokey Bear website.
The cub was treated and given to the Forest Service to be dedicated to the conservation and wildfire prevention publicity program. The bear was named Smokey and became the living symbol of Smokey Bear. Smokey lived at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., until his death in 1976.