New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is participating in events across the state this month to celebrate Smokey Bear’s 75th anniversary.
DEC is teaming up with the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters, and the Ad Council to celebrate 75 years since the 1944 launch of the Smokey Bear Wildfire Prevention campaign, the longest-running public service advertising campaign in U.S. history.
Smokey Bear was “born” on August 9, 1944, when the Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed on using a fictional bear to serve as the symbol for their joint effort to promote forest fire prevention during the Second World War.
Roughly nine out of 10 forest fires are caused by humans. Wildfires can be deadly and destructive, and the national annual cost of their consequences can range anywhere from $71.1 to $347.8 billion, according to recent study by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Last year’s Camp Fire in northern California destroyed the city of Paradise and killed more than 80 people, making it the nation’s deadliest wildfire in more than a century.
New York State has about 18.5 million acres of public and private forest lands susceptible to seasonal wildfires, and DEC’s Forest Rangers are the state’s lead division tasked with forest fire mitigation and the control and prevention of wildfires.
In 2018, DEC Forest Rangers extinguished 105 wildfires that burned a total of 845 acres.