Did you know it’s Smokey Bear’s Birthday?

Did you know that Smokey Bear turns 79 today? On August 9, 1944, Smokey Bear made his first appearance on a U.S. Forest Service fire prevention poster and became the longest running public service ad campaign in American history.

For Smokey’s birthday, we’re highlighting the top ways you can recreate safely and prevent wildfires. Because fire prevention is about more than just cooling your smokes (though that’s a good start!)

Did you know that sparks from generators, cars, and mowers cause thousands of wildfires?

When it comes to fire prevention, we often think of campfires and camp stoves. But thousands of fires start when sparks fly from old or malfunctioning outdoor equipment. 

If you camp with a generator, you’ll want to check it frequently to ensure it’s functioning properly. One small spark under the right conditions can start a massive wildfire. This is why it’s important to check your equipment regularly and to start and store equipment like generators on a rocky, gravel, or dirt surface versus a grassy spot at your campsite.

It’s also a good idea to maintain your car if you’re taking it off road. Things like hot exhaust pipes, dragging chains, and worn brake pads that cause metal to grind on metal, have all started fires on dry grass and brush. That’s why maintaining your car is one of Smokey’s top fire prevention tips!

If you’re concerned your gasoline powered mower might spark (and even if you aren’t!), Smokey recommends a spark arrester. Spark arresters trap hot exhaust particles and are a proactive way to prevent fires should your equipment malfunction.

Did you know that unattended candles start thousands of fires each year?

Candles seem too small to start a serious fire, but they start hundreds of house fires a year. If you enjoy a fancy candle in your home, backyard, or even at your campsite, it shouldn’t be left unattended.

Citronella candles at campsites and in backyards are often treated with less concern than a campfire, but all it takes is a little wind, paper plate, or napkin to ignite a wildfire. That’s why Smokey recommends watching your candle like you would a campfire.

Did you know that how you build your fire is just as important as putting out the fire?

Most of us would never think of leaving a campfire burning once we step away and call it a night. “Cooling your smokes” is a given. But the way you build and enjoy a campfire is just as important for fire safety as putting out the fire. That’s why Smokey recommends three things when building a fire: choosing a safe spot, digging a pit, and using proper fuel.

Before you build your fire, check if that area has any fire bans. During particularly hot and dry seasons, wildfires rage uncontrollably. Fire bans are a valuable guidance when the risk is at its highest in that area or at that elevation.

If you’re camping and the site doesn’t have a fire pit, be sure to choose a spot free from grass and shrubbery at least fifteen feet away from your tent or car. This ensures stray sparks don’t reach flammable foliage or structures.

Next, you’ll want to dig a pit at least a foot deep. Surround the pit with rocks and fill it with dry tinder and kindling. Be sure to keep an eye out for sparks (especially if it’s windy).

If you’re looking for more fire safety strategies during the warmer summer months, check out Recreate Responsibly. Most of us have no idea when our recreation habits are risky.

The National Park Service recently reported that nearly 85 percent of U.S. wildfires are caused by humans. Smokey’s birthday wish (we assume!) is for outdoor lovers to recreate safely. He might be 79 years old, but Smokey’s mantra is as true today as it was in the forties: Only you can prevent wildfires. So thanks for celebrating 79 years of Smokey and enjoying the outdoors safely!

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