Launching this week, a new USDA Forest Service wildfire prevention campaign features an animated Smokey Bear virtual assistant who will share wildfire prevention tips and answer common outdoor safety questions. Jessica Gilmore, a fire prevention technician with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, said Smokey Bear has been an effective wildfire prevention mascot for decades.
“I think a lot of people grew up with Smokey Bear, we all hear his slogan in play in our minds – ‘Only you can stop wildfires’ – and we see that iconic image of the Smokey Bear hat and shovel in his forest jeans, just there to watch and make sure people recreate responsibly and prevent forest fires,” Gilmore said.
According to the US Department of the Interior, 90% of forest fires are caused by humans. Gilmore said wildfires can occur in all parts of the United States and at any time of the year.
“All it takes is a bed of dry vegetation and a spark. And it can happen in Florida, it can happen in Kansas, it can happen in Washington,” Gilmore said. “There are areas across the United States that are experiencing drought. And in these areas, it is especially important for people to be aware of local weather conditions.
Gilmore said the new Smokey Bear campaign is part of a long-term effort to protect the nation’s wild lands.
“We want to make sure people understand that there are tools to access information. There’s SmokeyBear.com. Smokey also has an Instagram account @SmokeyBear. You can follow him on Twitter @Smokey_Bear… the more knowledge we get and the more we share this message, the more effective Smokey Bear’s message will be,” Gilmore said.
Although it adapts and changes with digital technology, Smokey Bear’s message remains the same: “only you can prevent wildfires”.