Long before President Donald Trump told the nation that raking leaves could prevent forest fires, Smokey Bear was the face of fire prevention, telling generations of Americans that they had a role in preventing wildfires.

This year, as Smokey turns 75, the blue-jean-clad bear with the shovel and ranger hat is being honored with a congressional resolution backed by Minnesota U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat from St. Paul.

“After carrying the torch of wildfire preventions (since 1944), I’m pleased to honor Smokey Bear and all he has done to educate Americans about the dangers of unwanted human-caused wildfires,” McCollum said.

But the bipartisan resolution also urges an update to the longest running public service advertising campaign in U.S. history.

“The flame of Smokey’s ‘Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires’ catchphrase has started to flicker,” McCollum said. Science now teaches that some fires can be beneficial for the environment.

Hence the resolution encourages the U.S. Forest Service “to explore ways Smokey Bear’s message can be modernized to reflect current science and differentiate between unwanted human-caused wildfires and beneficial natural and prescribed fires.”


Kevin Diaz • 612-673-4748