One of the most iconic characters for anything outdoors in the national forests has to be Smokey Bear. I know, some of you are correcting me right now saying the it should be Smokey "the" Bear. But, according to the National Forest Service "the" is not part of his name. It was only added to make his name rhyme well with his theme song played and sung by Eddy Arnold in 1952.
The Birth of Smokey
Smokey was born on August 9, 1944. The U.S. Forest Service wanted a spokes person to continually remind people that "Care will prevent 9 out of 10 fires", and the fictitious bear was just the ticket... as they said back then. In 1947, Smokey's message changed to the familiar "Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires".
The Real Smokey Bear
I few years after the creation of Smokey Bear from the U.S Forest Service Ad Council, The real Smokey Bear was discovered. In 1950, the Capitan Mountains in New Mexico were in a blaze. The firefighters were having an extremely hard time containing and fighting the forest fire and received a call from the tower that there was a lone bear cub spotted wandering the fire line. There was even a point during the battle that around 30 men had to lay face down on a rock slide together and take refuge as the flames engulfed them for about an hour. Amazingly none of the men were injured.
This team is who found and rescued Smokey. Little did they know that near by them, as they hunkered down to survive the flames, a little black bear cub climbed up a tree to save his own life. When they discovered Smokey, his hind legs and paws were badly burned. Smokey was taken care of by a nearby rancher for a short period of time and was then flown to Santa Fe by a Fish and Game Ranger to fully take care of his wounds.
Word about Smokey spread through the nation like wild fire... (pun intended) and the rest is history.
Smokey lived at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. until he died in 1976. He was buried in his home of Capitan, New Mexico at the State Historical Park.