Its not Smokey the Bear, but Smokey Bear
This Sunday, America’s Icon for forrest fire prevention will turn 65. The bear known as Smokey will celebrate his birthday with a renewed since of education and purpose as forrest fires still burn across this great nation. As the inspector what can we learn from this “old-timer” on building safety?
Why a Bear?
In 1950 a fire was spotted in the Captain Mountains in New Mexico. A group of firefighters and students were caught in the path of the fire and laid down in a rock-side until the fire burned over them. During the same fire, a bear cub climbed to the top of a tree to save himself and was severely burned. A rancher then ends of up taking the bear cub who was taken for veterinarian care in Santa Fe.
The news about the little bear spread swiftly throughout New Mexico. Soon the United Press and Associated Press picked up the story and broadcast it nationwide. Many people wrote or called to inquire about the little bear’s progress. The State Game Warden wrote an official letter to the Chief of the Forest Service, presenting the cub to the agency with the understanding that the small bear would be dedicated to a publicity program of fire prevention and conservation. The go-ahead was given to send the bear to Washington, DC, where he found a home at the National Zoo, becoming the living symbol of Smokey Bear.
Where is the “The”? The Great Debate
Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins wrote an anthem in 1952 which started the great debate. Every song needs rhtyhm and to keep the flow the song, Nelson and rollins and “the” between Smokey and Bear. The song was so popular that many fans only knew of Smokey as Smokey the Bear.
The US Forest Service has the official name as Smokey Bear.
Get Your Smokey On
As many public education campaigns have rolled on, so has Smokey. The US continues to have a forest fire problem, and many of the fires could have been prevented with proper fire safety taken by the user.
The Smokey Bear campaign has changed over the years, although the face of Smokey has become an icon with preventing forrest fires. Smokey Bear has been shown on public TV, Billboards, coloring books, and beyond. The public education campaign over the years has evolved based on the needs and ability to get the message out. A great example is the current use of social media and to provide quick hits of education where people get information from. The Smokey campaign is using tools such as twitter, facebook, and youtube to continue to get the messages out.
I guess if we look at Smokey and the number of fires the campaign has prevented, what is the comparable on the building or fire code side as inspectors? Do we have that single icon that has had as big of an impact as Smokey has?
Happy Birthday Smokey Bear!