There was a time not many years ago when Smokey Bear was on television more often that Yogi Bear, or even Yogi Berra. Smokey Bear (no ‘the’ – that was added for a song) first appeared in 1944 as part of a public service adverting campaign for the U.S. Forest Service to call attention to the danger of forest fires. Smokey’s finger-pointing “Remember... Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires“ image was an immediate hit. Seventy-five years later, we still have Smokey and unfortunately, still have forest fires and wildfires. That’s why the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM) announced this week that Smokey is getting some help from another furry fire fearer – Bigfoot.
“We are introducing a well-known Pacific Northwest mystery into our wildfire prevention marketing, known as Bigfoot or Sasquatch. Bigfoot is a protector of the wilderness and his “home”, and we are encouraging residents to take action to prevent wildfires.”
Starting in June, OSFM will use images of Bigfoot participating in outdoor activities on social media platforms to help raise the alert levels of Oregon residents and tourists, especially those living in or visiting Wildland–Urban Interface (WUI) areas - zones of transition between wildland (unoccupied land) and human development.
“We hope our Bigfoot campaign will draw attention and create a bigger ‘footprint’ of wildfire prevention efforts around the state. We want people to believe in fire safety, whether you are camping, visiting Oregon or recreating."
While State Fire Marshal Jim Walker had a little Bigfoot pun fun in an interview with KTVZ, the fire prevention campaign is serious business in a state with so much forest land, so many homes very close to woodlands and an ever-increasing risk of fires due to drought, water shortages and carelessness.
"We’ve created images and education materials showing Bigfoot outdoors, protecting his wilderness ‘home.’ By preventing wildfires in Bigfoot’s home, we can help residents protect their homes and our communities.”
You may have noticed that ‘Bigfoot’s home’ was not in quotes. A recent survey of the top states in the U.S. for spotting Bigfoot listed Oregon at #7, close behind its Pacific Northwest neighbors – Washington and California. Do residents believe in Bigfoot? Being associated with Smokey may help. Many people believed Smokey was real long before 1950 when the U.S. Forest Service found a five-pound, three month old American black bear cub that survived a wildfire in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico and named it Smokey. Smokey was eventually taken to the National Zoo in Washington DC where he received millions of visitors and 13,000 letters a week until he died in 1976. The plaque at his grave reads, "This is the resting place of the first living Smokey Bear ... the living symbol of wildfire prevention and wildlife conservation."
Can Smokey help Bigfoot’s popularity? Let’s hope it doesn’t take putting a baby Sasquatch in harm’s way to do it. In the meantime, watch for fire-fighting Bigfoot on social media (#BelieveInFireSafety), on T-shirts and on Oregon billboards.
And remember … only you, Smokey and Bigfoot can prevent forest fires.