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Northam recognizes Smokey on 75th birthday

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has issued a proclamation designating August as Smokey Bear Awareness Month in Virginia in celebration of the forest fire prevention campaign’s 75th birthday.

“Smokey Bear has educated generations of Virginians about the importance of preventing wildfires and preserving the Commonwealth’s natural beauty,” said Northam. “With its iconic figure and memorable message, the campaign continues to remind Virginians that simple actions can make a big difference in protecting our forests and reducing the number of fires and acres lost across the Commonwealth each year.”

According to a press release from the governor’s office, 95 percent of Virginia wildfires are the result of human activity. The burning of trash and yard debris sparks more than half of the blazes.

Created in 1944, Smokey Bear is the longest running public service campaign in the nation’s history. The campaign’s official slogan has evolved over the years from “Smokey Says – Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires” to “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.”

Although Smokey was created as a fictional cartoon character, an injured bear cub rescued from a New Mexico wildfire in 1950 became the living symbol of Smokey. Over the years, Smokey received so many gifts and letters he was assigned his own zipcode.

The living symbol of Smokey died at the National Zoo in Washington in 1976, but the cartoon figure continues to spread awareness of the dangers of wildfires and how we can prevent them.

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