"Only You Can Prevent Wildfires!"

How old were you the first time you heard this familiar message? This year marks the 75th birthday of Smokey Bear and the fire prevention campaign. Celebrations are happening throughout Minnesota, including a fun-filled, family event at Itasca State Park.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Red Lake Department of Forestry's Fire Prevention team invite you to help celebrate Smokey Bear's 75th birthday on Thursday, July 18. The event will be held at the Itasca State Park Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The celebration will include interactive family activities both inside and outside the visitor center. Take your photo with Smokey Bear, try out crafts and games, and learn from local firefighters who will share their experiences and how wildfires in Minnesota are affecting our forests. There will also be opportunities to check out fire-fighting equipment and to try out wildland firefighting gear.

Smokey Bear's fire prevention message is one of the longest-running public service ad campaigns. People around the world recognize this iconic symbol. But, how did it all begin?

Fire prevention messages and campaigns started to take hold in the early 1940s, during World War II. Bomb threats to the U.S. West Coast forest land was a significant public concern. The risk of wildfire posed a great harm to valuable forest and timber resources. Forest managers knew they needed the public's help to prevent wildfires.

The famous Disney character, Bambi, was temporarily introduced as a fire prevention campaign character. Bambi helped to draw attention and awareness to the effects of wildfire on all forest communities.

The U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council quickly recognized the effectiveness a fictional forest character had for fire prevention education. On Aug. 9, 1944, Smokey Bear was born. He first appeared on a forest fire prevention poster. In the poster, Smokey Bear is pouring water on to an escaped campfire. The poster message stated, "Care will prevent 9 out of 10 fires!"

Soon after, Smokey Bear's famous slogan, "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires," took hold. Over the past 75 years, many iconic posters and radio and television commercial ads have shared this valuable message.

Smokey Bear is recognizable throughout the world. The successful public ad campaign has raised awareness how careless acts with unattended flames, including campfires, sparks from chains on automobiles and fireworks, cause preventable wildfires.

In 2001, the Ad Council updated Smokey Bear's message, which originally focused solely on forest areas, to be inclusive of all areas prone to wildfires. Today, Smokey Bear's message is clear "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires."

Smokey Bear's message is as relevant today as it was 75 years ago. Throughout Minnesota and the U.S., firefighters from federal, state, tribal and local partners share fire prevention messages in schools and at local community events.

Firewise is a fire prevention program that aligns well with Smokey Bear's fire prevention messages. Minnesota residents who live in fire-prone forest and grassland areas can incorporate Firewise principles to create defensible space around their homes and buildings. One useful tip is that clearing all flammable material 30 feet from any structure can significantly reduce the potential for property damage during a wildfire. Learn more Firewise tips by visiting www.dnr.state.mn.us/firewise/index.html.