When people engage in outdoor activities, they connect with nature and improve their mental well-being. National parks and forests are great places for getting outdoors and relishing the beauty of nature while taking part in many different types of enjoyable activities. Camping is one great outdoor activity that provides opportunities for hiking, exploring, and sitting by a campfire. However, with campfires comes great risk, and campers should take the necessary steps to prevent the possibility of a wildfire.

A wildfire is an uncontrolled, unplanned, or unwanted occurrence that can devastate forests and parks. They can destroy not only the lives and homes of a forest’s plants and animals, but also those of the people whose communities are nearby. In the United States, nine out of 10 forest wildfires are caused by people being careless.

Forests make up over 700 million acres in the U.S. and the national park system covers more than 84 million acres in every state. This includes national parks, historical parks, recreation areas, scenic rivers, or lakes and trails. People and animals rely on trees and plants found in these locations for oxygen, fuel, food, raw materials, and medicine. For this reason, it is our responsibility to protect our parks and forests from the risk of wildfire.

Over the years, many forest fire prevention awareness campaigns have been launched to educate the population on the importance of practicing safety with campfires. The most notable of these campaigns is that of Smokey the Bear.

In 1944, the Forest Service, Association of State Foresters, and the Wartime Advertising Council came together and agreed upon the fire prevention symbol of Smokey the Bear. The loveable looking bear who wore a ranger hat and blue jeans first appeared on a poster pouring a bucket of water onto a camp fire along with the words, “Smokey says… Care will prevent 9 out of 10 forest fires!” In 1947, a new slogan, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires” was used and remained popular through the decades until it was changed to "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires" in 2001. Smokey the Bear is the longest running PSA campaign in U.S. history and is recognized by 95% of adults and 77% of children.

Since its beginning, the Smokey the Bear Campaign has put forth several forest campfire safety rules that are observed to this day.

Smokey’s Campfire Safety Rules:

For 70 years, Smokey the Bear has been educating American society on the preventative steps to controlling the risk of wildfire, and Foremost Promotions holds this important safety figure in the highest regard. Thanks to Smokey’s successful campaign, more children and adults know how to take the proper measures in preserving our country’s beautiful parks and forests through fire prevention.

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