U.S. fire prevention icon Smokey Bear turns 75 today

1944: The United States Forest Service and the Wartime Advertising Council release posters featuring Smokey Bear for the first time.

CAPITAN, N.M. - Smokey Bear, the icon of the longest-running public service campaign in the U.S., turned 75 on Friday.

Birthday parties are scheduled to take place this week in honor of the bear that promotes forest fire prevention.

The decision to use the Smokey Bear character happened on Aug. 9, 1944, when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed a fictional bear would be the fire prevention campaign symbol.

According to NPR, the Ad Council hired artist Albert Staehle, who designed Smokey's first look. 

The icon has evolved over the years, switching from a bucket to a shovel. He was paired with Roy Rogers for a radio PSA in 1950, the same year a badly burned cub found after a fire in New Mexico's Capitan Mountains was named Smokey Bear and was used in promotional campaigns.

The new Smokey Bear video PSAs feature an emoji-like Smokey, still donning his signature forest ranger hat (watch below).

The Gila National Forest in Silver, New Mexico, and Wingfield Park in the town of Ruidoso will hold birthday parties for the bear.

Parties also are scheduled in Reading, Pennsylvania, and Entiat, Washington.

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